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Russian Opposition Holds Peace March for Ukraine from smalljournal on Vimeo.

MOSCOW—Opposition activists and anti-war demonstrators marched in the Russian capital Sunday, urging peace in Ukraine and an end to Russia’s military support for separatists, even though the Kremlin denies backing the rebels.

Organizers of the march said over 50,000 people took to the streets in Moscow, but police claimed the number was exaggerated, putting it instead at 5,000.

It was for the second time this year that Russians demanded the Kremlin end what activists see as its military actions in Ukraine.  But many of the marchers want more than just peace in Ukraine, they also want political change in Russia.

Peace march participant Daniel says he hates to see President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin elite engaging in what he calls “destructive political activities.”

“I think it is a big mistake.  He is taking Russia into chaos, into anarchy, and nationalism, fascism. And, it should not be like this,” he said.

Small groups of protesters hurled abuse at the peace marchers, calling them traitors and fascists for supporting Kyiv over pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.  But it is President Putin who is behaving most like a dictator, says opposition leader and peace march organizer Boris Nemtsov.

“He lies in revenge for Ukraine’s revolution, when Ukrainians took to the streets and dethroned the corrupt thief president Yanukovych. [Putin] is afraid it could be repeated in Russia.  And, besides, he thinks if Ukraine is successful on the European path it is a threat to his own power,” said Nemtsov.

(via Russian Opposition Holds Peace March for Ukraine)

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Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories from smalljournal on Vimeo.

NAIROBI—One year ago Sunday (September 21, 2013), gunmen from Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group stormed the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, killing 67 people and scarring the nation.

On this grim anniversary, survivors of the attack talked to VOA about how they have coped with the trauma of that day.

Victims describe experience

Harveen Sihra was on the rooftop of Westgate, taking part in a cooking competition hosted by a local radio station when two gunmen walked up a parking ramp, and opened fire.

At first she and those around her thought it was a robbery, but they were wrong.

“After a while I heard a lady she was like, ‘Here, take my purse,’ but then that man said, ‘I don’t want the purse, we are not robbers, we are from the al-Shabab,” Sihra said.

The gunmen told Sihra, a teenager, that they were taking revenge for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia, and while they would not ordinarily shoot women and children, today they were making an exception.

“I did look at one of the men, eye-to-eye, and he shot me in my thigh.  And I did feel a burning sensation but after, everything went blurred,” she recalled.

Sihra was shot two more times, in her stomach and her ankle.  Her survival is extraordinary, but sadly, her grandmother and her cousin were killed in the attack.

(via Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories)

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US May Soon Launch Airstrikes on Militants in Syria from smalljournal on Vimeo.

WASHINGTON—The United States has conducted more than 175 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and may soon launch attacks on the group’s stronghold in Syria.

But analysts say it could be difficult to develop a military strategy that will not help the besieged government in Damascus.

Analysts say U.S. airstrikes only in Iraq would be ineffective in disrupting Islamic State extremists. They say such a plan could simply drive the militants back into Syria where they would have a chance to regroup.

Syria analyst Jennifer Cafarella with the Institute for the Study of War said, “It is entirely possible that Islamic State militants will be able to recede into Syria, but then to reengage inside of Iraq either through an insurgency campaign or through sustained terrorist operations even after the conclusion of U.S. airstrikes.”

And while soldiers and militias fight the Islamic State jihadis across the border in Iraq, the situation in Syria is more complicated.

Syria’s factions

For more than three years, Syria’s government has been fighting a civil war against numerous rebel groups, including Islamic State and the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad said, “We believe that international cooperation against terrorism should not exclude any effective party.”

The U.S. and coalition partners have no interest in helping the Damascus government.

Instead, they plan to arm moderate Syrian fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and defeat I-S militants.

(via US May Soon Launch Airstrikes on Militants in Syria)

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