Sunday 9 April – Sunday 16 April
On Monday there was a mass shooting at the Old National Bank in Louisville, Kentucky. A lone gunman who was a former employee of the bank, opened fire killing four people, live-streaming himself on social media. Occurring at around 08:30 am, he opened fire at bank employees having their morning meeting before the bank opened to the public. The live-streamed footage from inside the bank shows the gunman telling a female bank employee to get out. Encountering some difficulty discharging the rifle, he shoots her in the back before opening fire at the other employees. After his attack the gunman sat down in the lobby and waited for police before opening fire on them. Police responded on the scene within three minutes of a 911 call made from within the bank. During an exchange of fire with police, the gunman was killed. Eight others were injured, including a rookie police officer shot in the head, and a fifth victim died in the hospital. A motive has not been officially announced by police but it is possible his rampage was a result of receiving notification that his employment was being terminated.
There was a second, unrelated shooting at a community college blocks away from Old National Bank mere hours after the attack. A man was killed and a woman injured. A bad day for Louisville.
The Shiveluch (meaning ‘smoking mountain’) volcano in the Russian Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula erupted on Tuesday causing a magnitude 5.8 earthquake off the coast. Shiveluch is one of the most active volcanoes in Russia and this was the largest eruption in 30 years. The eruption sent an ash cloud 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) into the sky which covered 108,000 square kilometres (41,700 square miles) and blanketed some villages 90km (55 miles) away in about 9cm (3.5 inches) of ash – the most in 60 years. Lava flows from the volcano melted snow and prompted mudslide warnings. The eruption also prompted Alaska Airlines to cancel flights on Thursday as a safety precaution.
A major American intelligence leak – comparable to those by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden – has provided a rare assessment of U.S. intelligence capabilities on friend and foe alike. These disclosures represent the worst national security breach in years. The documents – which appear to have been produced between mid-February and early March – were circulated on Discord, Twitter, Telegram and 4chan and contain classified assessments related to the Ukraine war as well as South and North Korea, Egypt, Iran and China. The documents are a clear reminder of the global surveillance network that the U.S. maintains. Whereas WikiLeaks and Snowden revealed outdated information, this leak has revealed current intelligence assessments and provide a list of some of the countries and individuals that the U.S. spies on – predominantly with signals intelligence. Signals intelligence, or SIGINT, is a form of intelligence gathering that involves intercepting and analysing electronic signals transmitted by communication systems, such as radio, television, and computer networks.
The U.S. has been able to listen in on discussions inside the Russian Defence Ministry, spy on Zelensky and governments across the world. With regards to the war in Ukraine, operational briefs from the Joint Chiefs of Staff show the immense losses and difficulties faced by both sides of the conflicts. The documents report that Russian forces had suffered 189,500 to 223,000 casualties as of February, including as many as 43,000 troops killed in action. Ukraine, meanwhile, had suffered 124,500 to 131,000 casualties, with up to 17,500 killed in action. Though Russian losses have been higher, disclaimers on the documents reveal U.S. skepticism about the losses reported by Ukraine. Several of the documents cover the Battle of Bakhmut and suggest that Ukrainian forces are suffering supply shortages and are having difficulty countering Russian flanking manoeuvres. They document Russian and Wagner Group attempts to source weapons from around the world, including reports that Egypt would produce 40,000 rockets, artillery and gunpowder for Russian forces. They also reveal U.S. fears that Ukraine’s forces will fall well short of expectations in their announced spring counter-offensive. Kiev faces troop and weapons shortfalls that would hinder offensive plans and result in only modest territorial gains over the summer. Ukraine has been building 12 new brigades (usually 2500-5000 soldiers) with equipment targets of 253 tanks and 1,500 other armoured vehicles of various kinds. Nine of these proposed brigades are to be established with American and NATO allies. Of the 12 planned brigades, the documents reveal that only 7 have been trained so far and six of those had 50 percent or less of the equipment they require. A Russian military analyst has claimed the documents might have been planted by the U.S. to mislead Russia and downplay the strength and readiness of Ukrainian brigades before an offensive. As it is likely that Ukraine only has a single chance for a counter-offensive this year, modest gains will not defeat the Russian invasion force. The American assessment indicates they expect a “grinding campaign of attrition” that is “likely heading toward a stalemate”.
The documents show which NATO countries have special operations forces operating within Ukraine: the United Kingdom sent 50, Latvia (17), France (15), the United States (14) and the Netherlands (1). U.S. special forces were assigned to protect the U.S. embassy in Kiev, provide security for VIPs and monitor supplies of equipment to Ukraine. Rather interestingly, some of the documents allege that Mossad – Israeli intelligence – has encouraged its own staff and Israeli citizens to take part in the country’s judicial reform protests against the Netanyahu government. These allegations have been denied by Netanyahu. The leak caused a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and various countries. After an extensive investigation by various agencies, the FBI arrested a young Massachusetts Air National Guardsman called Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with the leak. Teixeira was part of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, whose mission is “to provide world wide precision intelligence and command and control, along with trained and experienced airmen for expeditionary combat support and homeland security.” Teixeira, who had a security clearance, allegedly began removing printouts of intelligence reports in October of 2022 and shared them on discord. Members of the Discord server began sharing the documents on other platforms after a few months. There will be a hearing for Teixeira on Wednesday.
In Ukraine the battle for the Donbass saw renewed and bloody fighting this week as Russian forces redoubled their efforts to seize the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. There were claims on Thursday by the Russian Defence Ministry that Russian forces had cut off the city from resupply. The Russians have gained control of 70 to 80 percent of Bakhmut, but the Ukrainians have held on to the western parts of the city despite terrible losses. The Russians are making some limited headway and their control over the city increases gradually, with gains in the north and south as they move to encircle the city. Wagner Group troops have been freed to focus on the centre of the city as Russian army paratroopers moved to the flanks.
After a Russian missile attack on Sloviansk, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said Ukraine would receive American Patriot missile systems sometime after Easter from the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands. As a mostly Orthodox country, Ukrainians are celebrating Easter today (16 April).
In an exciting development, SpaceX has cleared its final regulatory hurdle for the launch of its Starship rocket after waiting more than a year to get FAA approval for an orbital launch attempt. The rocket – the most power ever built – is part of CEO Elon Musk’s plan to make humanity a multi-planetary species by building a city on Mars. This will be SpaceX’s first attempt to put Starship into orbit, after years of testing and design. The flight will be un-crewed and will launch from the company’s South Texas facility (near the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville) on Monday – if all goes according to plan. The inaugural flight test will not complete a full orbit around Earth, but will reach orbital speeds about 240 kilometres (150 miles) above the Earth – well into outer space.
Despite the company’s reputation for landing its booster rockets, on this flight, the rocket booster will be discarded into the ocean shortly after liftoff. In future flights, however, SpaceX plans to recover the vehicle by guiding it to an upright landing back at the launch site. The Starship spacecraft will complete nearly one full lap of the planet, ending its flight with a splashdown in the ocean off Hawaii. Starship consists of two parts: the Super Heavy booster, the most powerful rocket every built that houses 33 engines, and the Starship spacecraft, which sits atop the booster during launch and is designed to break away after the booster expends its fuel to finish the mission. Together, Starship and Super Heavy are 120 metres (400 feet) tall. Testing began years ago with “hop tests”, many of which ended explosively before moving to higher altitude tests. A May 2021 suborbital flight ended in success.
In the week ahead:
SpaceX’s historic test flight, successful or not, will produce exciting footage.
Read more on Adrian’s Substack: adrianolivier.substack.com or Twitter @MIASubstack