The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 6

The Atlas Newsletter–World Updates & International News

Monday, March 6th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

Last week, we told you that we had ironed out most of the kinks in the newsletter. Then we immediately found more and set to fixing them. Needless to say, we continue to improve ourselves for your enjoyment, with your feedback being incredibly valuable. Many have been wanting to see certain content, and we can assure you that it is in the works, but it will be a few more weeks before it is ready for launch. That being said, we continue to release solid articles and podcasts on the website, some of which you can access for free and some of which you can access through an Atlas News subscription. If you’d like a free trial of the exclusive content and unlimited access to articles, check the bottom of this email for details. Ideally, the purpose of this newsletter is to be your brief one-stop weekly update on international happenings. If you don't feel satisfied with it yet, please be sure to let us know below how we can improve. All that said, now that the technical announcements are out of the way, let's look at the news.

Cross border conflicts continue to plague several African nations, most notably the DRC and Rwanda, with international organizations again called in to monitor and contain the situation. In Europe, a major train derailment in Greece has sent the country into a storm of demands and protests, while skirmishes continue to threaten the fragile peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Over in Asia, the Chinese have increased their defense budget as they aim to improve the quality of life of their soldiers and the weeks-long hostage situation of the New Zealander in Indonesia continues to unfold as soldiers surround the area and negotiations take place. In the Americas, left-leaning parties continue to ostracize religious majorities in Latin America and tensions begin to rise up over the Falklands again.

As usual, just another day at the office. Let's see what's up:- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, & the Atlas team


[Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

Sunday, March 5th, 2023: Clashes erupted this weekend between police and protestors in Athens as thousands gather to demand better safety precautions and standards for railroad workers following one of the deadliest train accidents in European history. The protests, made up of mostly students and railroad workers were mostly peaceful until several groups affiliated with left-leaning parties in Greece threw petrol-bombs at police, prompting a violent reaction. Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd in Athen's Syntagma Square, as fights briefly broke out before the protestors were funneled into adjacent streets. There has been no word as of yet on injuries or arrests.

The movement for accountability has grown since the Tuesday crash, which initially left 57 killed and dozens injured when a passenger train with more than 350 people board collided with a freight train. The train, which was travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki, was packed with mostly university students returning from a long holiday weekend. Protestors demand accountability for relaxed railroad standards, budget cuts, and underinvestment due to the recent economic crisis Greece is coming out of.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Sitsotakis and his government have acknowledged the faults of the railroad system. Writing on Facebook, he said, “As prime minister, I owe everyone, but most of all the relatives of the victims, an apology. Justice will very fast investigate the tragedy and determine liabilities.” A station master on duty at the time has been charged with endangering lives and disrupting public transport, with the court proceedings currently ongoing. The Greek Transport Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, also submitted his resignation over the crisis, saying he was unable to solve the “long standing failures” of a railway system that is “not fit for the 21st century”. Despite this, striking railroad unions highlight the safety deficiencies of the current standards and the lack of government funding to operate with proper precaution. Most notably is the lack of remote surveillance and signaling systems, with which, the Prime Minister said, “it would have been, in practice, impossible for the accident to happen”. He followed up by saying Greece will resolve the issue and is seeking expertise from it's European neighbors.


March 5th, 2023 - Five people were killed and one injured after a shootout took place between Azeri forces and four Artsakh policemen. According to Artsakh authorities, four police officers from the "Passport and Visa Department" were ambushed while traveling in a truck on their way to Stepanakert, resulting in three of them being killed and one injured. Two of the Azeri attackers were killed in the fight. According to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence, the truck was being used to transport weapons. They claim that they attempted to stop the truck and that its occupants fired first. They did not report how many people were killed or injured, just "there were casualties and injuries from both sides as a result of the firefight".

Photos of the Artsakh Policemen’s truck that was struck in the shootout.

March 5th, 2023 - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both said in a joint press conference that China will not be supplying Russia with weapons, contrary to US State Department claims that China may seek to provide lethal aid. Der Leyen further stated that the EU received "no evidence" showing China wants to supply Russia with arms, adding, "We all agree that there should be no arms deliveries, and the Chinese government has declared that it will not deliver any either. We insist on this and we are monitoring it".

March 2nd, 2023 - For the first time since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met face-to-face. It was not a proper meeting, only a ten-minute conversation while the two were walking at the G20 in India, but Blinken still took the opportunity to urge Russia to not only end their invasion but also not suspend the new START treaty. "I told the foreign minister that no matter what else is happening in the world or in our relationship, the United States will always be ready to engage and act on strategic arms control, just as the United States and the Soviet Union did even at the height of the Cold War". In a release, Russia's Foreign Ministry said they did not consider the meeting any legitimate form of negotiation, further accusing the US of a "hybrid war against Russia".

Middle East

March 2nd, 2023 - The Croatian Minister of Defence, Mario Banozi, visited Ankara, Turkey, in order to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, in the first such visit by a Croatian Defence Minister in nine years. Croatia and Turkey have been growing closer over the years, cooperating extensively on both trade and military matters. The meeting covered an array of topics, including the war in Ukraine and the recent earthquake. Minister Akar delivered a personal thank you to Croatia, which sent €819,600 in aid along with 40 experts in urban search and rescue and 10 search dogs. The visit signals the already positive relationship between the two nations is likely to grow even stronger.

March 5th, 2023 - Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani paid a visit to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt in Cairo in order to discuss furthering cooperation between the two nations. The meeting saw the presence of several high-profile Egyptian and Iraqi politicians, including Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Fouad Hussein. Both leaders highlighted the two nations cooperation in trade, politics, and counter-terrorism efforts before agreeing to begin several more projects in order to further foster the alliance. Egypt lately has held many diplomatic meetings across the Middle East, including last week with Syria and Turkey.

President al-Sisi and Prime Minister al-Sudani in Cairo (Photo from the Iraqi PM Media Office).

March 5th, 2023 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a statement from Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to have the Palestinian town of Hawara "erased" inappropriate. Hawara has been in the news recently as it is where, last week, two Israeli brothers were killed in a shooting by a Palestinian. Smotrich later fell back on his words, stating he didn’t mean that the town should be demolished but rather that Israeli forces should operate there against Palestinian militants. Netanyahu, in a Twitter thread, said, "It is important for all of us to work to tone down the rhetoric and lower the temperature. That includes speaking out forcefully against inappropriate statements and even correcting our own statements when we misspeak or when our words are taken out of context". He went on to add a thank you to Smotrich for "clarifying" his words, before he added that he has yet to see a condemnation by the Palestinian Authority of the murder of the two Israelis, before ending with, "The international community’s silence in the face of Palestinian support for terrorism must finally come to an end".


March 3rd, 2023 - Rwanda has claimed a soldier from the DRC attacked one of their border posts. The soldier crossed the border and began shooting at the Rwandans, who returned fire and killed the soldier. The response prompted a larger group of DRC soldiers, still on the DRC side, to open fire on the border post. A firefight ensued between the two sides that resulted in no further casualties. The following day, at Rwanda’s request, investigators from the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) arrived. The EJVM was formed in 2012 by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to investigate such incidents, as they occur often.

EJVM investigators arriving in the area of the shooting

March 1st, 2023 - Bola Tinubu was declared the winner of the February 25 Nigerian election. His opponents have accused him of voter fraud, which he and the Independent National Electoral Commission have disregarded. Tinubu, 70, who received 8.79 million votes, is showing signs of his deteriorating health that have caused critics to call into question his ability to lead. Runner-up Atiku Abubakar received 6.98 million votes, followed by Peter Obi, who got 6.1 million votes.

March 2nd, 2023 - 12 civilians were killed in Burkina Faso during an attack by "a group of terrorists", who attacked the village of Aorema. Residents say the suspected jihadists "opened fire on a group of young people sitting in a kiosk. Seven young people died on the spot, and three people died in their homes, hit by stray bullets. Two other people were shot and later died from their injuries". One resident claimed the "terrorists" had made incursions into the village before and had ordered "the young people of the village to stop gathering there" at the kiosk. The following day, a curfew was instated in Burkina Faso’s northern region and will last until March 31st.

The Americas

March 1st, 2023 - As the Roman Catholic Church heads into the Lenten season, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has banned all public Lenten processions. Over 55% of Nicaragua’s population is Catholic, but Ortega claims the Vatican is a "mafia organization", guilty of "grave crimes and horrors". On the matter, he said, "I don’t believe in popes or kings; who chooses the Pope? If we want to talk about democracy, the people should first elect priests and the bishops, and even the Pope should be elected by direct vote and not by the organized mafia in the Vatican". The banning of processions is the latest in a series of crackdowns Ortega has made on Roman Catholic influence in the country.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (Photo from Today Nicaragua).

March 2nd, 2023 - Argentina’s government has informed Britain that it is pulling out of a 2016 cooperation pact signed between the two nations regarding the Falkland Islands as they seek new talks over the islands. In 2013, residents of the islands voted to remain as a UK territory. "The Falkland Islands are British. Islanders have the right to decide their own future; they have chosen to remain a self-governing U.K. Overseas Territory" tweeted British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. The Falkland Islands sit just shy of 500 kilometers off Argentina's coast but are owned by the United Kingdom. Argentina maintains that the islands were illegally seized from it in 1833 and attempted to invade the Falklands in 1982. The British expelled the Argentine invaders from the islands and have since secured their rule there, for the time being.

Asia and Oceania

March 1st, 2023 - Indonesia’s military has confirmed it has surrounded the area in which New Zealand national Phillip Mehrtens is being held after being taken hostage on February 7th. He was taken hostage by a Papuan independence group, which is demanding their nation's independence from Indonesia for his release. However, they are holding off on an operation as New Zealand officials have expressed a wish to prioritize negotiations over military action, which could potentially harm Mehrtens. As such, Indonesia’s government is currently in negotiations with the rebels over the New Zealand pilot, who is said to be in good health and has been photographed many times with the Papuan rebels.

New Zealand Pilot Phillip Mehrtens pictures with rebels of the West Papua National Liberation Army- Free Papua Organization

March 5th, 2023 - China has announced that it is increasing its military budget by 7.2%, after increasing it by 7.1% last year. China’s military has been growing exponentially lately as fears grow of an ever-looming Chinese invasion of Taiwan. 2023’s budget has been given as 224 billion, which makes China’s military budget the world's second largest, led only by the US. China, which recently launched its third aircraft carrier, maintains the world's largest standing army and navy. However, oftentimes the quality of their equipment and training is called into question by international experts, who cite their lack of experience and corrupt bureaucratic military leadership. The Chinese government said much of the budget increase is to increase the "welfare" of its soldiers.

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