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Red Cross aid convoy reaches Homs, massacre feared

A Red Cross aid convoy has entered the shattered Baba Amro district of Homs after a Syrian official declared the area "cleansed" and the opposition spoke of a massacre by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

(REUTERS) Beirut - The residential district became a symbol of resistance to Assad after government troops surrounded it with tanks and artillery and shelled it intensively for weeks, killing and wounding civilians cowering in its ruined buildings.

Rebels withdrew on Thursday in a key moment in the year-old uprising. An official at Syria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said the army had "cleansed Baba Amro from the foreign-backed armed groups of terrorists."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s Decoy-In-Chief

The Russian Foreign Minister, among the country’s most recognizable figures, embodies both the corruption and confusion of the Putin regime. Not everything is what it seems — and that’s the point.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a diplomatic reception for heads of African diplomatic missions

Anna Akage

From the outside, one might have the impression that the Russian Federation is run through a highly complex and well-coordinated apparatus that ensures that any single cog in Vladimir Putin’s system is by definition both in synch with the other cogs — and utterly replaceable. The Kremlin appears to us through this lens as an impregnable citadel with long arms and peering eyes that are literally everywhere.

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And yet, this is a completely false picture — and there’s no greater proof than in looking more closely at one of Russia's most prominent figures, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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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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