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Geopolitics

Is Russia's New Cultural Center In Paris Used For Spying?

Since the inauguration of the Orthodox cathedral and the Russian cultural center in the French capital on Oct. 19, questions about the use of the site for more sinister purposes have been raised.

A view on the Orthodox cathedral in Paris
A view on the Orthodox cathedral in Paris
Richard Werly

PARIS — When a Russian orthodox church and cultural center opened its doors Oct. 19 in Paris, Vladimir Putin was supposed to cut the ribbon himself. But after French President Francois Hollande demanded talks on Syria, the Russian president chose to skip the event. The church and center were still inaugurated. Located near the Eiffel Tower and France's foreign ministry, the complex covers an area of nearly 4000 square meters and is topped by five golden domes.

Before construction of the largest Russian Orthodox cultural center in western Europe began in 2012, this area held the headquarters of the French weather office. But now it could hold more sinister purposes, some claim.

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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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