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Switzerland

Olympic Barriers: Will This Be The First-Ever Woman (And Muslim) IOC Chief?

Nawal El Moutawakel was ignored by Morocco when competing in the 1984 Olympics -- until gold made her a national hero. Now she's looking to clear another hurdle or two.

"To see a woman here would be innapropriate," said Baron Pierre de Coubertin...
"To see a woman here would be innapropriate," said Baron Pierre de Coubertin...
Giulia Zonca

Even a woman used to revolutions like Nawal El Moutawakel considers the idea of a female President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) a bit far-fetched. And there, in that traditional world, one so masculine and decidedly conservative that the times move at different rhythms.

The IOC has had eight Presidents in its more than 100-year history, and all have been male and almost all European. The only exception is American, Avery Brundage, who has hardly gone down in history for his democratic vision: He was head of the U.S. Olympic Committee when the States decided to substitute some Jewish athletes for the Games of Berlin in 1936, and was in charge of the IOC when Tommie Smith and John Carlos were stripped of their medals in 1968 for the Black Power salute.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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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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