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Geopolitics

Celebrities Take The Political Stage, From Beyonce To Beijing

How the intersection of show biz and state power looks from China.

Beyoncé singing at the Lincoln Memorial during the 2009 presidential inauguration
Beyoncé singing at the Lincoln Memorial during the 2009 presidential inauguration
Chen Jibing

BEIJING - When it comes to entertainment, the upbeat and always cheerful Americans are king. They can turn a solemn moment into entertainment, a ceremony into a festivity. Last month's inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama’s second term in office is the latest proof of that uniquely American way of embodying their belief in freedom through amusement.

Though not as impressive as his first inauguration four years back, there were still as many as 800,000 people from all over the United States who'd come to Washington D. C. to watch the ceremony and attend the parade. In order to experience this Democracy Festival the public had to line up in the bitter cold for hours, and suffer through huge crowds and tight security. In fact President Obama had already been officially sworn in as President in a non-public ceremony in the White House the day before. But with millions tuning in on TV, the show must go on, and folk singer James Taylor and pop star Beyonce were a bigger hit than Yo-Yo Ma’s cello performance four years ago. No one seems to notice that all of this happens amidst a particularly bleak political and economic atmosphere currently shrouding the United States.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Kharkiv Revisited: Inside Russia's New Assault On The "Hero City" Of Ukraine

The nation's second-largest city, Kharkiv was quiet for weeks after Ukrainian forces took control. But now it is again under attack as Russia pushes to capture the city that's considered the "gateway" to Ukraine. Die Welt reports from the frontline.

Damages due to Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Alfred Hackensberger

KHARKIV — "Come, I want to show you something," Denys Vezenych says, opening the door of his dental office.

The 40-year-old begins to tell the story in the waiting room: "It was April 16 when the Russian artillery shell hit. The windowpanes were broken, the walls had holes everywhere and the roof was destroyed. But I renovated everything."

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The repairs cost him several thousand euros. "You have to think positively, because life goes on," he explains with a smile. But this attitude is not so present generally in Saltivka, a neighborhood in northeastern Kharkiv. The dental practice may be like new, but the rest of this area in the northeastern Ukrainian city is completely destroyed.

The Russian army has done a great job in its three-month offensive on Ukraine's second largest metropolis. Countless flats have been burned out, the facades of houses have been shot to pieces, entire shopping centers have been bombed. Debris still lie in the streets everywhere.

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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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