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Russia's Syria Plans, Angry Obama, Non-Neutral Anthem

Russia's Syria Plans, Angry Obama, Non-Neutral Anthem

RUSSIA'S SYRIA AIRSTRIKES TO LAST 3-4 MONTHS

The Russian airstrike campaign in Syria could last three to four months, Alexey Pushkov, the head of the lower house of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, was quoted as saying Friday by the French radio station Europe 1. Pushkov, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, also said the airstrikes would intensify.

  • This comes two days after Moscow started officially bombing ISIS positions in war-torn Syria, and a few hours before Putin was set to meet with French President François Hollande, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
  • That meeting was slated to focus on Ukraine, where a fragile ceasefire has been in place since last month. But the Paris summit will likely be overshadowed by talks on Syria, according to Le Monde.
  • Pushkov brushed off accusations that Russian air strikes had targeted Western-backed opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "These opponents to Bashar are very close to Daesh ISIS," he said.
  • Pushkov also accused the U.S. of "pretending" to bomb ISIS this past year. "Only 20% of their operations produced results, 80% of them did not lead to bombardments."
  • Iranian troops are reportedly being deployed in Syria in support of Russia and the Assad's government, Al Jazeera reports.

ANGRY OBAMA REPEATS "ROUTINE" AFTER OREGON SHOOTING

Photo: Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard/ZUMA

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation for the seventh time in seven years following a mass shooting, after a gunman killed nine people and wounded as many as 10 at the Umpqua community college in Oregon on Thursday.

  • "As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough," Obama said in a strongly worded speech repeating calls for tighter gun control laws. "Somehow, this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this."
  • The gunman, identified as Chris Harper Mercer, 26, died of a gunshot wound, though it is not clear if he committed suicide or was killed by police.
  • Reports say the gunman asked some of his victims whether they were Christian before opening fire.
  • His online activity shows he indicated support for the IRA.
  • The gunman may have warned of his actions on the 4chan platform.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Hervé Pighiera is on a mission: to clean roadsides, 800 kilometers of them. For L'Obs, Caroline Brizard followed the man who left on foot from Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, heading for Paris, picking up mountains of trash on his way: "The roadsides are littered with all sorts of trash and sometimes odd objects that owners must have lost by accident. He's already found "a screwdriver, T-shirts, baby pajamas, a plastic watering can, a National Front membership card, pie-baking dishes, bolts, a pair of size 13 shoes, a phone, a condom — still in its packaging — and road maps," he enumerates."

Read the full article, Why This Man Is Walking Across France To Collect Garbage.


TWO DEAD IN SYDNEY SHOOTING

Two people were killed Friday in a shooting outside New South Wales state police headquarters in western Sydney, a local police statement says. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, at least one gunman opened fire on a police IT worker outside the State Crime Command, before a police officer returned fire.


ISRAEL LAUNCHES MANHUNT AFTER COUPLE KILLED

Hundreds of Israeli troops were searching for a suspected Palestinian gunman Friday, after an Israeli couple was killed Thursday night while driving between the settlements of Itamar and Elon More, in the north of the Palestinian territory, the AFP reports. Their four children were found unharmed in the back of the car. The couple, both in their thirties, were residents of the central West Bank settlement Neria, northwest of Ramallah.


ON THIS DAY


Rooooooooooooooooooxanne — and much more, on today's 57-second shot of history!


VERBATIM

"Modern Chinese society has lots of contradictions, and if people want to send a message about their anger or make a point, they can get explosives from any mine," the South China Morning Post quoted Pan Zhiping, a Chinese domestic security expert at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, as saying. Earlier this week, a series of 17 deadly blasts in the southwestern city of Liuzhou, believed to have been coordinated by one single individual, killing at least seven and injuring more than 50, shows how easy it is to acquire explosives in the world's second largest economy. In China, gun crime is extremely low, but explosives are widely available from the sprawling mining and fireworks industries.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



NEW SWISS ANTHEM

The Swiss recently voted for a new national anthem. Check out our Le Blog item about the not-so-neutral economist who wrote the winning hymn.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Decisive Spring? How Ukraine Plans To Beat Back Putin's Coming Offensive

The next months will be decisive in the war between Moscow and Kyiv. From the forests of Polesia to Chernihiv and the Black Sea, Ukraine is looking to protect the areas that may soon be the theater of Moscow's announced offensive. Will this be the last Russian Spring?

Photo of three ​Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Anna Akage

Ukrainian forces are digging new fortifications and preparing battle plans along the entire frontline as spring, and a probable new Russian advance, nears.

But this may be the last spring for occupying Russian forces.

"Spring and early summer will be decisive in the war. If the great Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the downfall of Russia and Putin," said Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence.

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Skinitysky added that Ukraine believes Russia is planning a new offensive in the spring or early summer. The Institute for the Study of War thinks that such an offensive is more likely to come from the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk than from Belarus, as some have feared.

Still, the possibility of an attack by Belarus should not be dismissed entirely — all the more so because, in recent weeks, a flurry of MiG fighter jet activity in Belarusian airspace has prompted a number of air raid alarms throughout Ukraine.

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