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Under pressure
Under pressure
Julian Hans

MOSCOW — Finally, an engagement that Vladimir Putin could enjoy. Wearing dark aviator glasses against the bright sun, the Russian president attended the Russian “Navy Day” parade last Sunday at the Norwegian sea port of Severomorsk. A warship recently put into service fired some salvoes, and sailors responded to Putin’s greeting with three cries of Hurrah!

Reactions like that have become thin on the ground for Putin recently. In his phone calls with Western government leaders the mood has turned steely, the tone sharp. When — even after the death of the 298 passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — no decisive sign came from the Kremlin that it intended to distance itself from the fighters suspected of having shot the plane down over eastern Ukraine, Brussels too begun discussing tough sanctions against Russia.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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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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