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Loading cement on a truck in Rafah
Loading cement on a truck in Rafah
Piotr Smolar

GAZA CITY — It's easy to imagine his frustration, that of a professional whose fate doesn't depend on the quality of his work or his willingness to work hard but on political contingencies. Salaheddin Abu Hassira, 50, is an entrepreneur in Gaza's building sector. It's a pursuit that, in this Palestinian territory, seems condemned to prosper after the wars with Israel destroyed so much.

After Israel's Operation Protective Edge, which lasted 50 days over the summer, villages and entire neighborhoods were ravaged. "I'm impatient for reconstruction to start," Hassira says. But right now it's virtually impossible to begin the work of restoring or rebuilding homes. There isn't any of what is as valuable as gold in Gaza — cement.

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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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