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Iraq's Instability, Afghanistan's Election, World Cup Mania, and more


RFE/RL's Weekly Rundown , a concise look at our top stories this week:

# Iraq's Instability: Iraq is reeling from the rout of its national army from provincial capitals of Mosul and Tikrit by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda spin-off group that for months has also held Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. Why is the Iraqi army collapsing so quickly, and what does it mean for the future of the country, including those who have been forced to flee their homes? Also, neighboring Iran is closely watching events as fighting is reportedly pushing toward Baghdad.

# Iraq Graphics and Video: RFE/RL's map of ISIL advances in Iraq. Plus, what would the Middle East look like if unrest spurred a redrawing of borders along ethnic lines? Video from RFE/RL's Iraq Service, Radio Free Iraq shows Kurdish Peshmerga forces taking up positions abandoned by Iraqi Army units around Kirkuk Province.

# Down To The Wire In Afghanistan: Afghans will vote on June 14 to decide which of the last candidates standing -- Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani -- will be their next president. Watch today's RFE/RLive discussion on what's at stake, including the legacy of mean-spirited campaigning, security concerns, destabilizing gangs and militants, and Pakistan's influence. Follow updates throughout the weekend via RFE/RL's Afghan Election Live Blog, Radio Free Afghanistan (in Dari and Pashto), and Gandhara.

# Hope For Akhtara: An update on Akhtara, an Afghan mother of four who was begging in the streets after suffering severe facial scars from an acid attack by her husband's killer before Radio Free Afghanistan stepped in.

# Ukraine Update: Ukrainian forces have taken control of the city of Mariupol from rebels and arsonists attack a mosque in Crimea, while President Petro Poroshenko spoke with Russia's Vladimir Putin to protest after Kyiv said three tanks and other military vehicles crossed the border. Meanwhile, soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard have complained about a lack of food and other supplies as they battle pro-Russian separatists in the country's east, telling RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Radio Svoboda, that they're grateful for the additional food supplies they are receiving from volunteers and local residents. Finally, you don't have to speak Russian to know this is an interview that's going downhill fast for one incredulous host when he hears an account that challenges the Kremlin party line about events in Donetsk.

#Jumping Through Russian Hoops: Migrant workers in Russia are already required to pass a language test, and in just six months, those seeking work permits will need to pass exams in Russian civics and history as well. And in Montenegro, where Russians own 40 percent the country's prime seafront, leaders feels Kremlin heat over NATO ambitions.

# World Cup Mania: For one Iranian lawmaker, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is a path to immorality. Good thing he has a "precise plan" to keep a constant watch on the Iranian players and delegation accompanying them. The only Balkan teams competing -- Bosnia and Croatia -- can count on noisy support from some unlikely quarters. Paul the Octopus surprised the world with a string of accurate predictions in the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and this year the clairvoyant animal craze continues with Psychic Saiga, an antelope from Kazakhstan. BONUS POINTS: Test yourself to see how much you know about historic World Cup exploits of countries from RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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-- Karisue Wyson

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