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Geopolitics

Libya: The Birth Of Press Freedom In Benghazi

The Libyan rebel city is witnessing a torrent of journalistic enthusiasm, with new TV stations and free newspapers giving voice to the revolution.

Benghazi media center
Benghazi media center
Béatrice Gurrey

BENGHAZI - Before the Feb. 17 revolution, the Cultural Center in Benghazi was headed by a woman whose cruelty is infamous all over Libya. Huda Ben Amer, better known as "Huda the Executioner," made herself notorious in 1984 during the public execution of an opponent to Gaddafi's regime. As the unfortunate man kicked and struggled on the gallows, she grabbed him firmly by the legs and pulled hard, all on live television.

Colonel Gaddafi found this episode much to his liking and subsequently showered the fanatic woman with honors, twice naming her mayor of Benghazi. Today she has taken refuge in Tripoli at the side of the dictator to whom she is said to be extremely close. Her house in Benghazi, an impressive, ocher-red structure, has been burnt down. "Courtesy of Sadek Hamed Shuwehdy," says a graffiti message sprayed on the walls of the scorched house, in memory of the engineer executed more than a quarter-century ago.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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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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