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In his state-of-the-nation speech in early December, Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward an astonishing justification for his annexation of Crimea: the peninsula, he said, is as sacred to Russians as Temple Mount in Jerusalem is to Muslims and Jews.

“It was here, in Crimea, in ancient Chersonesus, or Korsun as the Russian chroniclers called it, that Prince Vladimir took baptism, before he baptized all of Rus,” Putin said.

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