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South Korea

After Sewol, An Election In South Korea's Saddest City

A visit to Ansan, South Korea, where a month after 260 of its children died in the South Korean ferry sinking, the city must elect its mayor. Mourning and anger are the politics of the day.

The mourning is everywhere in Ansan
The mourning is everywhere in Ansan
Philippe Mesmer

ANSAN — The atmosphere is grim in Ansan, but it's time for people to go to the polls. On Wednesday, the 760,000 inhabitants of this modest town an hour by train southwest of Seoul will be voting for their mayor and the executive of Gyeonggi, their region.

It’s a national vote, but in this city born in 1986 of the fusion of several fishing villages, the election takes place in a very particular context. Ansan is home to Danwon High School — the school that lost 260 students and teachers when the Sewol ferry sunk on April 16.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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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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