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Newlywed couples kiss during a mass wedding ceremony in Manila on Valentine's Day.
Newlywed couples kiss during a mass wedding ceremony in Manila on Valentine's Day.

OVER 70 PEOPLE EXECUTED IN CONGO
Armed groups executed more than 70 men and women in villages in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo between late January and early February, AFP quotes the UN mission MONUSCO as saying. According to the organization, most of the people were killed with machetes in a bid “to spread terror among the population.”

AL-QAEDA PRISONERS FREED FROM YEMEN JAIL
At least 14 prisoners, most of whom are Al-Qaeda fighters, were freed from a jail in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa during an attack by heavily armed gunmen, Al Jazeera reports. Eleven people were killed during the assault, including seven policemen. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but the local Al-Qaeda branch, thought to be one of the most active and dangerous, has been regularly carrying such attacks on state and military facilities over the past two years.

RUSSIA AND EGYPT SIGN $3 BILLION ARMS DEAL
Vladimir Putin and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have signed an agreement for the delivery of Russian arms worth $3 billion, newspaper Vedomosti reveals. The deal, which is thought to be funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, aims to compensate for decreased aid from the United States, following last year’s coup against President Mohamed Morsi. Read more from Ria Novosti.

ITALY PM TO STEP DOWN
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta will resign later today amid pressure from the young leader of his own Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi, La Stampa reports. Renzi, who President Napolitano is expected to name the next prime minister, has criticized the government’s inability to push through necessary reforms. Reuters reports there will be intense negotiations between the two coalition parties before a new government can be formed, but it is unclear whether the new administration will last a full term.

BELGIUM LEGALIZES CHILD EUTHANASIA
The Belgian Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of removing age limitations for euthanasia 12 years after its legalization, thus extending it to terminally ill children, Le Soir reports. Despite strong public support for the measure, doctors are divided over the issue, with opponents arguing that children do not have the capacity to make such decisions and that medicine can make suffering children comfortable. Read more from the BBC. AP explains here how the amended assisted suicide law would work.

VIRGINIA’S GAY-MARRIAGE BAN RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
A U.S. federal judge ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. But District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen stayed her decision to allow time for appeal, meaning that gay couples will not yet be able to marry in the state. Read the full story from The Washington Post.

CRIME
Drive-by muggings in Naples, Italy, are nothing new. But this one has a happy ending.

BY THE NUMBERS
More than 200,000 people were told to evacuate their homes as a Indonesian volcano erupts. Read more here.

FOTO
More than 800 couples attended a mass Valentine’s Day wedding in Manila today, where they (affordably) tied the knot.

VERBATIM
One year after the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, South African Olympic and Paralympic Champion Oscar Pistorius reflects on the tragedy.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
This 100-year-old Valentine’s Day card may be the least romantic ever.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

Putin arrives for a ceremony to accept credentials from 24 foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 20.

Sergiy Gromenko*

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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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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