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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Anna Akage, Shaun Lavelle and Emma Albright

The last sighting of Vladimir Putin was five days ago, when the Russian President appeared at the inauguration of a giant Ferris wheel in Moscow.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Since then, as the Ukrainian army’s major counter-offensive in the northeast and south has gained momentum, and Russian troops make a hasty retreat, Putin has disappeared from the public space and made no comments on the dramatic events on the front of what he continues to call a “special military operation.”

The same is true of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, considered a loyal Putin insider and chief architect of the war, who has made no appearances or declarations.

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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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