With the Russian presidential election set for next month, the heavily favored candidate, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, visited the election center last week as it prepared for the polls. Yana Lapikova/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Communist Party activists in Moscow campaign on Dec. 2 for the party's candidates in parliamentary elections. The Russian Communist Party is hoping to capitalize on a wave of dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his ruling United Russia party. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Tens of thousands of people filled an avenue in Moscow on Christmas Eve to protest the alleged rigging of the Dec. 4 parliamentary polls in a challenge to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin's authority. Yuri Kadobnov /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Relying on social media, Russian activists are attempting to organize more mass rallies against the Russian government. Here, protesters staged a huge rally in Moscow on Dec. 24, 2011, alleging vote rigging in parliamentary polls. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shakes hands with President Obama in the Oval Office at the White House on Monday. The two leaders met as the U.S. prepares to withdraw the last of its combat troops from Iraq. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai calls Monday on the international community to keep up its support for Afghanistan. More than 100 countries attended the conference in Bonn, Germany. Oliver Berg/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Syrian has come under increasing international pressure in recent days. On Monday, Syrians protested in the capital Damascus against the Arab League's decision to impose sanctions. Syria has also come under sharp criticism from an independent commission that accused the security forces of systematically carrying out abuses against anti-government demonstrators. Yin Bogu/Xinhua /Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Yin Bogu/Xinhua /Landov