SYRIAN OBSERVATORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, BBC NEWS (UK), AP

Worldcrunch

DAMASCUS - A series of bombings in Syria’s capital Thursday has killed at least 31 people, among them children and civilians. A car bomb struck the heavy-populated central Damascus district of Mazraa, near the headquarters of Syria’s ruling Baath party and the Russian Embassy.

I used to walk over this bridge almost every day. Between Mazra'a and Adawi in #Damascus. Aftermath of car bomb. twitter.com/NMSyria/status…

— NMSyria (@NMSyria) 21 février 2013

Syrian state-TV footage of the scene showed at least four lifeless bodies. Reports on casualties include children injured at a nearby school in the residential district of the capital. State media blamed the huge explosion on "terrorists" battling the regime.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the country, reports that a car bomb exploded near security checkpoints between the Russian Embassy and the headquarters of President Bashar Assad’s party – which comes as Russia and the Arab League have announced they want to broker direct government-opposition talks.

A second blast was reported in Damascus’ northeastern Barzeh neighborhood, a security official told the Associated Press, while eyewitnesses and pro-government TV reported several other potential blasts.

pro govt Adunya TV says 4 explosions rocked #Damascus, ALthwra str,rukneldin, Barze & Sabee Bahrat square, dozens of civilians killed #syria

— Rula Amin (@RulaAmin) 21 février 2013

The violence comes as the opposition Syrian National Coalition is due to begin a two-day meeting in Egypt to discuss a framework for a possible solution to the Syrian war, BBC News reports.

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Geopolitics

Waiting For Putin: Is Ukraine Caught In New Kind Of Cuban Missile Crisis?

Will there, or will there not be a Big War with Russia? Ukrainians try to gauge what happens next as tensions remain following the call between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

Barbed wire near the Russia-Ukraine border

Valentin Sprinchak/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

The two-hour conversation between the Presidents of the United States and Russia, to the surprise of virtually nobody, ended without any break in the tension. Both Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke in clear and plain terms during the talk Tuesday, over a secured video link, as Russian troops have amassed at the Ukrainian border and the world fears the growing risk of an invasion.

Putin insisted that NATO missiles in the region are a red line, while Biden threatened to cut Russia out of the international financial system if Russia invades Ukraine. Another phone call, this time from Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is planned for the end of this week.

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