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LA STAMPA

Praying For Mandela In Soweto, Birthplace Of Apartheid Revolt

Forty years after government killings here sparked the militant anti-Apartheid movement, the ailing grandfather of modern South Africa is a reminder not to return to the past.

In Soweto, South Africa
In Soweto, South Africa
Paolo Mastrolilli

SOWETO – Thoko Dhlamini smiles, takes her foreign visitor by the hand and points toward the center of the aisle: “Now the kids are coming back from school to receive the benediction," she says. "I pray for them not to go through what I went through. I pray for this country to remain united, even when Mandela is gone”

It’s Sunday morning in Holy Cross, the Anglican church of Soweto overlooking the corner where on June 16, 1976 Hector Pieterson died. The government had decided that the children should study Afrikaans as well as English.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Inside Russia’s Revival Of Stalinist “Filtration Camps”

Though different than concentration camps constructed by Nazis, the “filtration” facilities nevertheless recalls a brutal history, and have been reopened under Putin, and ramped up since the invasion of Ukraine.

Civilians leaving Mariupol on foot

Anna Akage

"It was like a true concentration camp."

This is how Oleksandr, a 49-year-old man from Mariupol, described where he and his wife Olena were taken in by Russian security officers. Speaking to a reporter for the BBC, the couple was fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated for hours, and their phones searched for material that could somehow identify them as “Nazis.”

But there is another name given to that these locations, and the process, that have been set up to handle Ukrainians taken into custody in areas occupied by pro-Russian separatists: They’re called: “filtration camps.”

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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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