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LES ECHOS

Power And Seduction: The U.S. And France Still Worlds Apart

Just as the Dominique Strauss-Kahn storm hits, a well-timed book by an American reporter in Paris tries to make sense of the French codes of power, sex and gender. A review by Le Monde's New York correspondent.

Power And Seduction: The U.S. And France Still Worlds Apart
Corine Lesnes

NEW YORK - Transatlantic differences of opinion look far from being resolved. Accusations have been flying since the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known as "DSK" in France: "Puritans!", "Brutes!", "Too permissive!", "Hypocrites!". French Socialists are denouncing a furious media and judicial frenzy, with veteran party stalwart Jack Lang even accusing the New York judge who kept Strauss-Kahn in prison of wanting "to make a Frenchman pay, and whatsmore a Frenchman who is well-known."

Since the arrest last Saturday of the General Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on charges of attempted rape, the DSK affair confirms the stereotypes. On the one hand, the French sensualist, forever womanizing with the tacit approval of his peers, confident in his "sophistication," as the Wall Street Journal put it mockingly. On the other, a brutal judicial system that does nothing but accuse, and sheriffs convinced they are in an episode of "Law and Order." Imagine the shock of Americans on learning that in France, there is a law against broadcasting images of a handcuffed defendant, whereas in New York, the police call the cameramen and invite them to film! For the French, it's incomprehensible that the accused has not yet had the chance to defend himself.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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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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