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A Ukrainian commando moves on separatist barricades in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine.
A Ukrainian commando moves on separatist barricades in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine.
Florian Hassel

KOSTIANTYNIVKA It was still early on Monday morning in the east Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivka when the city administration and police station were visited by 20 weapons-bearing men wearing camouflage uniforms. Within a few minutes they had control of the seat of power in this city of 95,000 people, and it wasn’t long before they had erected a wall of sand bags, taken down the Ukrainian flag, and hoisted the black, blue and red flag of the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

Those who had been leading the city up to that point were either sent home or asked to stay for “constructive talks,” as the commander of the armed men later put it. “We came to guard the building and prepare the referendum,” he told Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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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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