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Putin Will Pay

As horror piles on horror and the rest of us look on aghast, the world’s top legal minds are focussing on bringing the brute to justice. Not any time soon, but the day could dawn when the Russian President faces the same reckoning as Hitler’s henchmen at Nuremberg. Meanwhile, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the West is gradually tightening the screws.

Armament supplies to Ukraine’s valiant army are being stepped up. As are the sanctions. Now even targeting Putin’s own daughters.

At the same time, evidence of war crimes, including mass murder and rape, is being carefully collated.

For now, holed up in the Kremlin, Putin is impervious to the forces ranged against him.

And, thanks to his Orwellian mind-control techniques, opinion polls show he’s still got the bulk of his people onside.

Hence what happened to language teacher Irina Glen after she challenged the official line in one of her lessons.

She’d no idea one of her students was recording, as she told the class: ‘We are living in a totalitarian regime. Any dissent is considered a crime.’

And, case proved, she’s now barred from leaving the country and facing up to ten years in jail under the new ‘don’t tell the truth’ law.

Hence also what happened to Nobel-winning editor Dmitry Muratov, one of the very few independent journalists still working in Russia.

Someone threw a tin of red paint over his head, shouting ‘here’s one for our boys’.

Certainly, the Russian armed forces have taken a hit. Not that Putin likes to let on, but his spokesman has finally fessed up.

‘We have had significant losses of troops, and it’s a tragedy for us,’ press secretary Dmitry Peskov admitted on Sky News last week.

Of course this was folded into the usual blather about how it’s all Ukraine’s fault.

Those horrid people had turned against us, he explained, and Russia had become ‘concerned about our security’.

Yerright. The other one’s got bells on it.

Still, at least they’re consistent. His words tally with Moscow’s insistence that their chaps have been jolly nice to survivors of their murderous attacks.

All those gruesome images of dead bodies all over the place? Often with hands tied and some bearing clear evidence of torture?

Nothing to do with us, guv, it’s them wot done it, is the constant refrain. You couldn’t make it up. Wouldn’t need to, really. They got there first.

But the defence could yet unravel, in the International Criminal Court, successor to the military tribunals set up by victorious allies at Nuremberg.

There’s no anticipation this’ll happen any time soon. But Geoffrey Robertson QC, who ran the war crimes court in Sierra Leone, says watch this space.

‘Vladimir Putin, at sixty-seven, could live another thirty years, and who knows what may happen in that time?’ He asks.

‘It took twenty years to bring the butchers of the Balkans – Mladic and Karadzic – to justice.

‘And Putin’s crimes are so serious that he should never be given immunity from prosecution.’

Former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic, incidentally, will spend the rest of his life at Parkhurst jail on the Isle of Wight.

A delicious but not totally unthinkable prospect, then – Putin and him banged up together to reminisce about the fun they had committing genocide.

Another not totally unthinkable prospect now being mooted in British and American security circles is that he could actually lose his war.

It might sound implausible, given Russia’s overwhelming superiority in terms of men and equipment.

But it’s not just that Ukraine’s forces, with their backs against the wall, are hugely more motivated.

Every day brings fresh announcements of new defensive weaponry being shipped in from NATO countries.

And much of it is decades more modern, and deadly, than a lot of the clapped-out Soviet-era materiel the invaders are stuck with.

So, says eastern Europe expert Mark Voyger from the Transatlantic Defence and Security Program, there’s no doubt about it:

‘Ukraine is winning it on the ground, tactically, operationally, internationally, strategically.’

And Pentagon spokesman John Kirby adds Vladimir Putin: ‘Has achieved zero of his strategic goals.

‘He is really only taking control of a small number of population centres.

‘Of course Ukraine can win this. The proof is literally in the outcomes that you’re seeing every day.’

All we’re seeing on our tellies every day, alas, is endless heartbreaking images of death and destruction. But that isn’t the whole story.

And British military chiefs are tentatively starting to dare hope the Americans might be right.

We’re preparing to send in armoured vehicles, anti-tank weapons and anti-ship missiles.

Other western nations too are fulfilling Ukrainian President Zelensky’s wish-list, perhaps supplying tanks, as well as defensive missiles.

A Whitehall source said: ‘The next three weeks will be critical. The Ukrainians have already partly won.

‘They have exhausted the Russian army, won the battle of occupation and condemned Putin to eternal isolation.

‘Can they push back the Russian army? Can they break the Russian army? Possibly. Depends on what help we can all give.’

There’s a saying in journalism: ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ But we do have our niggles here at home too.

A lot of people got terribly cross when a South Korean doctor suggested anyone who hasn’t got Covid clearly hasn’t got any friends either.

But with infections in England at their highest level ever, with an estimated one in thirteen of us having had it, you can see his point.

The good news being that the figures from the official number crunchers are a lagging indicator, and the surge has already levelled off.

The bad being that staff absences all over the place are seriously hampering this year’s Easter getaway.

Airlines have had to axe dozens of flights, while the industry’s struggled to replace staff made redundant earlier in the pandemic.

Also, Covid documentation checks which passengers often don’t understand have made delays worse and queues longer.

At the same time, rail operators have, for reasons best known to themselves, decided now is the time to do loads of engineering work.

Ferry operators are in a bit of a pickle too after P&O’s sacking spree. If you’re driving to Dover best bring a book, or two, to read.

But driving anywhere won’t be a doddle, as the AA’s warning of what it euphemistically terms ‘significant congestion’ over the Easter weekend.

It expects more than thirteen million people will take to the roads on Good Friday alone. You wonder how they can afford it, price of fuel these days.

The cost cut announced in the Chancellor’s mini-budget last month helped, but only a bit.

And now he’s in loads of trouble following the revelation that his extremely well-heeled Indian wife doesn’t pay much tax here in UK.

He’s got loadsermoney too, btw. For Dishy Rishi read Filthy Richy Rishi.

Which is why his chances of winning a post-partygate leadership race for Boris Johnson’s job seem to be rapidly diminishing.

Looking too remote from ordinary folk does leave leaders vulnerable.

The late cheeky chappie Labour MP Frank Haynes once scored handsomely off the late Margaret Thatcher with the following question:

‘Does the Prime Minister know the price of a large white?’

Needless to say, she hadn’t the foggiest. But she did rather take to him, in spite of all.

Probably helped when one day, also in the chamber, he called her ‘ducky’. Not quite unparliamentary language, but still pretty rude.

After she’d leant over to ask one of her ministers what the word meant, she came back with something altogether disarming.

‘Mr Speaker, I understand it is an endearing remark.’

In itself rather an endearing remark. Hardly her style, but rather sweet.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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