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Hungary

How Orban Is Trying To Take Europe Away From Merkel

Viktor Orban is the only leader in the European Union who has benefited from the refugees crisis. But his ambitions know no boundaries.

Viktor Orban and Angela Merkel at a press conference in Berlin
Viktor Orban and Angela Merkel at a press conference in Berlin
Paul Lendvai

BERLIN — For the first time since his momentous victory six years ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has tasted a political defeat. The failure of the referendum that aimed to block required European Union allocations of refugees fell short of the necessary 50% turnout at the polls. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to make too much of the political consequences for Orban of this setback.

Lightening fast and powerfully eloquent, he has turned the fiasco into a "tremendous political success," noting that 98% of those who did vote were opposed to the EU refugee policy, and vowing to block any future decisions from Brussels regarding the refugees question.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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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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