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John Kerry meets Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, April 2013
John Kerry meets Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, April 2013
Bernard Gwertzman

After a successful visit to Israel, President Obama has apparently turned the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio over to Secretary of State John Kerry, says Martin Indyk, a leading Middle East expert. Past secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, James Baker, and Warren Christopher, distinguished for their work on Middle East issues, always had their president's complete support, Indyk says. "It remains to be seen if Obama is so committed," Indyk says. "Is the president committed to this, or is he pivoting to Asia? If he's committed to it then the Secretary of State's involvement will be potentially very important, but if he's just leaving it for Kerry to fail, or waiting to see if Kerry can succeed, then I don't think it's going to work."

It's been a couple of weeks since President Obama made his first trip to Israel as president, in which he gave a very well-received speech to an audience of students and touched upon the need for peace between Palestinians and the Israelis. Now Secretary of State John Kerry is apparently going to have to carry the peace-talks ball. Where do you think the United States stands after this trip?

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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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