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Nic Robertson, after over 3 decades covering Russia….

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March 11, 2022

(CNN)I leave Moscow angry and sad.

It feels like a passage out of darkness to light, but left behind are friends trapped in one man’s tunnel vision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t just destroying Ukraine, but two nations, condemning Russians to an isolation they didn’t necessarily choose.
Over the past couple of months while I’ve been reporting from Moscow, I’ve met many people who have been horrified, shocked and numbed by Putin’s wanton aggression. Some of them believed him when he said he wouldn’t invade Ukraine. Some even knew players in the Kremlin inner circle and thought they understood the President’s red lines, but now that trust is blown and they fear he has no limits at all.
What makes Putin’s actions all the more galling is how he executed his plot in plain sight. Distracting with one hand, transfixing attention on diplomacy, even while insisting falsely that his massed troops were carrying out exercises on Ukraine’s borders.
Ordinary Muscovites didn’t even flinch as he perpetrated this betrayal by marching the nation to war on a cocktail of carefully stewed grievances.
Putin spent years building a false narrative along with his empire. The wishes that he was denied, such as NATO withdrawing to 1997 lines or barring Ukraine from membership, was the West’s fault, he claimed. But if Putin did believe Russia’s security was threatened, and that the modern western world was pitted against him, the truth was that he never adjusted to the changing dynamics of the 21st century.

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