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Geopolitics

Syrian Rebels Wage War Even As Arms And Ammunition Run Dry

In the Jabal al-Akrad mountains, the Free Syrian Army rebels are fighting an uneven war against Bashar al-Assad’s army: with outdated weapons, depleting ammunition and barely a doctor to be found.

Syrian rebel fighters, short on weapons, plant a bomb to target a government tank (Freedom House2)
Syrian rebel fighters, short on weapons, plant a bomb to target a government tank (Freedom House2)
Boris Mabillard

JABAL AL-AKRAD - Hussein delicately displays the treasure he's been hiding in a sock: fifteen cartridges. He checks each one of them carefully and puts them back in their provisional container. As for his weapon, he has none, but borrows a Kalashnikov from his fellow fighters when he needs one. In Hussein's unit, or "katiba," 100 rebel soldiers share 80 weapons. This includes outdated shotguns, buckshot rifles and some pistols.

Here in the Jabal al-Akrad region in the northwest of Syria, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rules over the countryside and mountains. Its ambition: to resist and eventually challenge the country's dominant military force, the Syrian Army. This requires getting organized, gaining some field experience and above all, acquiring weapons and equipment.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Inside Russia’s Revival Of Stalinist “Filtration Camps”

Though different than concentration camps constructed by Nazis, the “filtration” facilities nevertheless recalls a brutal history, and have been reopened under Putin, and ramped up since the invasion of Ukraine.

Civilians leaving Mariupol on foot

Anna Akage

"It was like a true concentration camp."

This is how Oleksandr, a 49-year-old man from Mariupol, described where he and his wife Olena were taken in by Russian security officers. Speaking to a reporter for the BBC, the couple was fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated for hours, and their phones searched for material that could somehow identify them as “Nazis.”

But there is another name given to that these locations, and the process, that have been set up to handle Ukrainians taken into custody in areas occupied by pro-Russian separatists: They’re called: “filtration camps.”

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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