While European diplomacy wonders what should the "dire consequences" — sanctions? which ones? on whom? — for the ferocious repression of the opposition's revolt by the Ukrainian government, The Economist names and shames the culprit.
The British magazine has no doubt: the Russian president is responsible for the "inferno" he contributed to unleash in the Ukraine. "The horror could yet get much worse", writes The Economist,
the bloodshed will deepen the rifts in what has always been a fragile, complex country. Outright civil war remains a realistic prospect. Immediate responsibility for this mayhem lies with Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s thuggish president. But its ultimate architect sits in the Kremlin: Vladimir Putin.
Many Ukrainians feel their state has been captured by a corrupt elite, which cannot be dislodged by the usual democratic means. Kiev is one of the few European cities where the European Union is synonymous with good government and the rule of law.
If Mr Yanukovych clings on, weakened at home and ostracised abroad, Mr Putin will be content, for he will have another dependent leader to add to his collection of pliable clients. But he might not stop there. Russian hawks have long wanted to annex Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that Nikita Khrushchev transferred to Ukraine (reputedly while drunk). This upheaval could provide a pretext for Mr Putin to grab it. Either way, a wretched Ukraine will help convince his people that street protests, and political competition, are the road to ruin.
It is past time for the West to stand up to this gangsterism. Confronting a country that has the spoiling power of a seat on the UN Security Council, huge hydrocarbon reserves and lots of nuclear weapons, is difficult, but it has to be done.