In the West, Vladimir Putin is most often described as an isolated, even “paranoid” leader, enjoying absolute power that dispenses him from consulting or listening to advisers. However, if it is obvious that Putin is an autocrat who has freed himself from any counter-power, there are advisors in his “first circle” who are known for their moderation and others who are openly warmongers.
For anyone who visited Kiev – I was there at the end of January – in the weeks preceding Vladimir Putin’s coup de force, the prospect of seeing the weapons speak is a heartbreaker and an appalling waste. For two reasons. Firstly, the youth I met in the cafés of Kreschatyk Street, the main and monumental thoroughfare of the Ukrainian capital, is fundamentally pro-European. In the region, they look more to Vilnius in Lithuania, an EU member state where many young Ukrainians study, than to Moscow.