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NIGER DELTA, NIGERIA | JULY 2009

Atteke Tom, the big chief of the MEND, with his boys, in one of the eleven camps he rules in the mangrove of the Niger delta.

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Ukrainian flag hung up near the Oskil river

Anna Akage, Sophia Constantino, and Emma Albright

Ukrainian forces have reportedly gained control of the east bank of the River Oski, preparing for an assault on Russia's forces occupying the eastern Donbas region. Russia's army has been almost completely pushed out of the northern Kharkiv region and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the next offensive targeting Luhansk was in the works.

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Though Zelensky repeated that victory would only come when Russian forces were completely driven from Ukrainian territory, Kyiv’s forces are working to establish a foothold on the eastern side of the Oskil and liberate the city of Lyman, which was seized by Russian forces in May. Taking the city of 20,000 would represent a major breakthrough, bringing momentum to free other cities in the region, which were occupied this spring.

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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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