The news, for a moment, seemed encouraging. In a stage-managed television appearance on February 14th Vladimir Putin grunted a terse “good” to the proposal of his foreign minister that, despite warnings by the West of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, diplomacy should continue. A day later Russia’s defence ministry said that some of the 180,000 or so troops it has deployed at its borders with Ukraine are to be withdrawn to barracks, having completed their military exercises which, it has always maintained, is why they were there in the first place.
Officials, and the markets, breathed a small sigh of relief. Alas, open-source intelligence soon showed that, although a few units were moving, many more were preparing to fight. With the candour that has wrong-footed Mr Putin, many Western security officials accused him of lying, redoubling their warnings of a looming Russian invasion.
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