Western leaders, the story goes, have realised their mistake and are flocking to make amends with Vladimir Putin, the magnanimous Russian leader who tried to warn them against supporting Ukraine. First it was Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who sought an audience with Mr Putin. Then it was John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, who flew all the way to Sochi to pay his respects. “America has realised that Ukraine is not worth spoiling its relationship with Russia,” proclaimed Channel One, Russia’s main television station. Russia’s military might and its alliance with China, the channel implied, had forced America back to the table.
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The images of war which dominated Russian television for the past year have been supplanted by tales of diplomatic victories and Ukraine’s failures. If war resumes, according to Channel One, it will be launched by the desperate Ukrainians.