The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 20

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, June 12th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

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Let's dive right in today. Over in Europe, we have Italy and the Netherlands meeting in Tunis, more trouble in France regarding the pension reform, and Boris Johnson resigning again. In the Middle East, Iran claims to have developed a new weapon, and the Kurds are hitting ISIS in a different way. Meanwhile in Africa, Romania has recalled its Kenyan ambassador in scandal, the war in Sudan continues, and an aid group reports they’ve been stolen from. In the Americas, Honduras grows closer to China, Peruvians attack oil companies, and four children survive alone in the jungle after a plane crash. Wow. Then in Asia and Oceania, China monitors Western military exercises, India has a wrestling scandal, and refugees from Bangladesh worry for their safety.

Today, as always, is just another day at the office. Let's see what we’ve got:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr & the Atlas team

Ukraine War Update

Sunday, June 11th, 2023: Preliminary reports suggest the highly anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun, with contact all along the frontline. Some fairly major developments have occurred, but it is certainly far too early to draw any conclusions on the level of success either side may have in the coming weeks.

The most major development, happening just before the offensive began, was the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric dam. Water from the Kakhovka Reservoir then emptied into the Dnipro River, which has caused significant flooding in Kherson and surrounding communities as entire towns are washed away. The exact cause of the burst remains unclear at this time, but Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of blowing it up.

Another major focus is on the failure of Ukraine to use their Western-supplied tanks effectively during probing efforts along the frontline, leading to major losses of German Leopard 2 main battle tanks and American Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Geoconfirmed footage released by Russian forces showed a number of Leopard 2s, M2 Bradleys, and M113 APCs destroyed, leaving at least 4 tanks, 4 IFVs, 1 mine clearing vehicle, and an unknown amount of APCs destroyed. There is also no confirmation of human losses. While losses are expected, some Ukrainian sources have criticized them as a tactical blunder due to poor armor tactics and have called for those in command to be held accountable. The presence of the BMR-2 suggests that Ukrainian forces were expecting the fields to be mined, which may have contributed to the armored vehicles bunching up and making them an easy target for Russian anti-tank weapons.

Russia notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week of several attempted attacks by kamikaze drones on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. It was not specified by the IAEA who may have carried out the attacks. The IAEA also announced upcoming checks on the facility to ensure it’s integrity following the recent flooding. Earlier last week, they announced that "the water level in the reservoir that is supplying Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has been falling throughout the day," but "the facility has back-up options available and there is no short-term risk to nuclear safety and security."

While more Ukrainian probing has been reported and dozens of artillery attacks from both sides have occurred, it is speculated that the real offensive has not yet begun, though it is expected to be aimed at cutting Crimea off from the rest of Ukraine.


June 11th, 2023 -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte have traveled to Tunisia in order to meet with Tunisian President Kais Saied in order to discuss both Tunisia’s dire economic situation as well as a significant increase in dangerous migrant crossings from Tunisia to Europe, mostly to Italy. Tunisia is growing deeper and deeper in debt, and as the nation continues to dive, the possibility of them defaulting on loans becomes stronger. The EU is in talks with Tunisia to give them an immediate 150 million euros in budget support and then an additional 900 million euros in economic support. Commission President Leyen said the support will be given once a "necessary agreement is found".

PM Meloni, Commission President Leyen, and PM Rutte meeting in Tunis, June 11th (Photo from Italian Premier Office via AP).

June 10th, 2023 - French opposition parties have failed to repeal the Macron administration's widely unpopular Pension Reform Bill. The bill has been protested for months, before and after Macron forced it through parliament without a vote. The opposition attempted to pass a repeal bill, which they eventually withdrew. In turn, Mathilde Panot, President of the Parliamentary Caucus of La France Insoumise, has announced she will be presenting yet another motion of no confidence against Macron’s government, a vote Macron has survived several times now.

June 9th, 2023 - Boris Johnson has announced his resignation from the United Kingdom’s Parliament after the Privileges Committee recommended he be suspended from Parliament for more than 10 days due to apparent violations of his own UK lockdown policies, referred to as the Partygate scandal. The former Prime Minister refutes these claims and maintains his innocence, declaring in a statement that this is a coordinated effort to remove him from political office.

Middle East

June 6th, 2023 - Iranian President Ebrahaim Raisi has revealed what Iranian state media claims to be the nation's first hypersonic weapon, called the "Fattah", or "Conqueror" in Farsi. Iranian state media said the missile has a range of 1,400km and strikes at a speed of Mach 13–15. According to the head of the IRGC’s aerospace program, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, "the Fattah cannot be destroyed by any other missile due to how it moves in different directions and at different altitudes".

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Photo from Atta Kenare/AFP).

June 11th, 2023 - The Kurdish Autonomous Administration in North Eastern Syria (Rojava) has announced that they are going to begin trying suspected foreign ISIS fighters who have been in their detention for years. The announcement comes after years of Kurdish efforts to get the fighters nations of origin to take them and try them at home, which were mostly refused by the varying nations. In total, the administration holds upwards of 10,000 ISIS militants in its detention facilities, which are overcrowded. "Since the first days following the battle of Baghouz, the autonomous administration has called on the international community to fulfill its duties regarding finding a solution for the captured ISIS militants", the administration’s statement reads in part. Given the length of detention of the fighters, many of whom have been there for over 5 years, the administration has decided to take matters into its own hands, stating the ISIS fighters would receive "open, free, and transparent trials".


June 11th, 2023 - Romania has recalled their ambassador to Kenya after comments he made in which he compared Africans to monkeys became public. Ambassador Dragos Tigau was at a UN meeting in Nairobi on April 26th, and after he spotted a monkey outside the window of the building, he said "the African group has joined us". When his words became public, they were shortly followed by many African politicians demanding a public apology. On Saturday, Romania announced they had only recently learned about the incident and would be recalling their ambassador. Kenya has yet to comment on the ambassador's recall.

Ambassador Dragos Tigau in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo from Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/GettyImages).

June 11th, 2023 - After some much-needed quiet, explosions and gunfire have once again resumed in Khartoum, Sudan, after a 24-hour ceasefire expired. Reportedly, the clashes seen after the ceasefire was over are some of the heaviest since the conflict began eight weeks ago. The war is sailing towards the two-month mark, having begun on April 15th. Fighting was once again concentrated around Khartoum. The ceasefire was another that was brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US in Jeddah. Both nations have been central in pursuing peace processes and establishing ceasefires, though most of the ceasefires (this one included) have been to allow humanitarian aid to reach vulnerable groups rather than attempt to establish a permanent peace.

June 5th, 2023 - US aid group GiveDirectly said in a statement that across a 6-month period, starting in August 2022, approximately $900,000 was stolen from its program in the DRC, mostly by staff members. While the amount stolen was only around 1% of the group's aid to the DRC, the theft is reported to have diverted aid away from 1,700 families. GiveDirectly stated that some of its staff members worked with outsiders in order to defraud the cash transfer program. They said an investigation had begun, and they were able to recover "a very small portion of the lost funds", but that the rest would unfortunately remain lost. "This fraud was only possible because of a specific change we made in our payment process in order to work in this remote, insecure region of Congo", the group said. GiveDirectly stated that they will be trying to get aid to the people specifically affected by the fraud.

The Americas

June 10, 2023 - Honduras has opened an embassy with China after cutting its ties with Taiwan in March of this year, ending cooperation between the two countries since the 1940s. Taiwan’s foreign minister claims that the decision comes after Honduras’ government demanded an exorbitant sum to continue relations before siding with Beijing. Honduras’ President, President Xiomara Castro, is currently in China for a state visit, where she will meet Xi Jinping. Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu claims that Castro’s government has "always had illusions" about China, and China's "luring" has never stopped. "The foreign ministry and embassy grasped the relevant information and handled it carefully. However, the Castro government also asked us for billions of dollars in huge economic assistance and compared prices for assistance programs provided by Taiwan and China," Wu said in March. Honduras’ foreign minister, Eduardo Enrique Reina, wrote to Taiwan in March asking for nearly $2.5 billion in aid, largely consisting of a loan of $2 billion to help write off debt as well as funds for the construction of a hospital and a dam, according to Reuters.

Honduras unveiling the new embassy in China. (Photo - Hua Chunying)

June 7, 2023 - Two oil tankers have been attacked by a group of indigenous protesters in Peru’s Amazon region. The attackers have taken more than a dozen workers captive and utilized gasoline bombs, which they launched from canoes on the Amazon river. The tankers are owned by Canada-based PetroTal, Peru’s largest oil producer, with one of the tankers carrying roughly 40,000 barrels of crude oil while the other was reportedly empty. The ships were on route to Brazil from an oil field in Loreto. PetroTal has accused Aidecobap, an indigenous rights association, of staging the attacks after opposing recent Peruvian changes to the country’s oil funds. Blockades targeting PetroTal on the Amazon River, specifically in the Puinahua Canal, have been ongoing since the 3rd. The Peruvian navy is on standby to monitor the cargo ships as well as the health of any personnel still held captive by the protestors.

June 9, 2023 - Four children from an indigenous community in Colombia were found alive after surviving for over five weeks in the country’s southern regions. The plane was originally flying between Araracuara, in Amazonas province, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, before crashing in the deep jungle on May 1st after a mayday was reported due to engine failures. Three adults, including the pilot and the children’s mother, Magdalena Mucutuy, were found dead inside the crashed plane. Members of the Colombian military discovered the siblings, who were all siblings and aged 13, 9, 4, and a 12-month-old baby, Friday close to the border between the Caqueta and Guaviare provinces of Colombia, where the plane had crashed. Search and rescue teams have previously found remnants of eaten fruits as well as remnants of improvised shelters constructed from jungle foliage.

Asia and Oceania

June 8, 2023 - Chinese aircraft have allegedly monitored and gathered intelligence on an exercise involving the navies of the United States, Japan, France, and Canada, according to the Chinese state-backed Global Times. It is thought that the Chinese utilized a Y-9 cargo aircraft variant fitted with intelligence-gathering equipment to monitor a joint naval operation between the nations, with the Japanese Foreign Ministry seemingly confirming these fears after reporting spotting one such variant in the Pacific on Thursday. The exercise consisted of two United States aircraft carriers, the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, an American missile cruiser, a Japanese large-deck helicopter destroyer, as well as both a French and Canadian frigate, marking the first exercise of its kind since 2020. It was conducted near the Ryukyu Islands in the Philippine Sea.

A Chinese Y-9 transport aircraft, likely similar to the one used to gather intelligence. (Photo - Wikimedia Commons)

June 11, 2023 - Indian police have said they will finish investigations of alleged sexual misconduct concerning the Wrestling Federation of India President, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, after facing months of protests in New Delhi. The protests began in January of this year after Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and Commonwealth Games women's gold winner Vinesh Phogat began a sit-in protest in New Delhi demanding the immediate prosecution of the WFI President. Singh, who is also a member of parliament for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has denied all accusations and hosted a rally on Sunday to seek support against the accusations in his first public appearance since April. The protests have previously been forcibly broken apart by Indian police, with multiple wrestlers being detained for allegedly breaking barricades and disobeying police orders. The deadline has been set for June 15th by the government. Reuters has also reported that seven female athletes, including a minor, officially reported the harassment.

June 9, 2023 - Thousands of Rohingya refugees protested in Bangladesh on Thursday, demanding a return to their homeland of Myanmar and an escape from the refugee camps. Many of these refugees fled Myanmar after the military’s crackdown on who they deemed to be "foreign interlopers" six years ago. Refugees cite the increasing crime rates, squalid living conditions, and lack of future prospects in Bangladesh for their desire to return to their homeland, with many fleeing to other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia by boat, oftentimes in dangerous conditions. The UN has reported that an estimated 348 Rohingya are thought to have died at sea last year. Rohingyas are a Muslim minority in the Bhuddist majority country of Myanmar and are denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law.

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