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Assad At Ease, An Exclusive Face-To-Face In A Surreal Damascus

Monica Maggioni, head of Italy's Rai news service, recounts her meeting this week with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad inside his private Damascus villa: "He looks nothing like the defeated leaders of this era."

Assad At Ease, An Exclusive Face-To-Face In A Surreal Damascus
Monica Maggioni*

DAMASCUS — He's the most controversial man in the world, the most talked about president. He was supposed to get bombed by the Americans, until the operation was called off at the last minute. He's also the No. 1 target for ISIS, other regime opponents and several neighboring countries.

In spite of all that, and after four years of war, he still lives in a bourgeois neighborhood of Damascus. No bunker or underground hideout: The 50-year-old Bashar al-Assad spends part of his day here in the center of town, amidst nondescript, mostly gray buildings, tidy apartments and balconies with long lines of laundry out to dry. His villa is just a tad bigger than those next door.

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People walk by a mall destroyed by Russian shelling in Irpin, Ukraine. More than 300 civilians died in this city close to Kyiv. A month after the Russian troops’ withdrawal, its inhabitants are gradually returning to their devastated homes.

Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Bonjour!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia declares victory in Mariupol as the 82-day siege ends, Biden’s administration lifts some Trump-era restrictions on Cuba and NASA’s rover starts digging around for life on Mars. Meanwhile, America Economia explains how blockchain technology could take the cannabis business to an all-time high.

[*French]

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