Live Updates: Russia invades Ukraine

CNN’s international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. (CNN)

I leave Moscow angry and sad.

It feels like a shift from dark to light, but there are still friends trapped in one man’s tunnel vision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is destroying not just Ukraine, but two nations, condemning Russians to an isolation they did not necessarily choose.

Over the past two months, while reporting from Moscow, I have met many people who have been horrified, shocked and numb to Putin’s wanton aggression. Some of them believed him when he said he would not invade Ukraine. Some even knew players from the Kremlin’s inner circle and thought they understood the president’s red lines, but now that confidence is shaken and they fear he has no limits.

What makes Putin’s actions all the more infuriating is how he executed his plot in plain sight. Distracting with one hand, fixing the focus on diplomacy, even falsely insisting that his massive troops were carrying out drills on Ukraine’s borders.

Ordinary Muscovites didn’t even flinch when he perpetrated this betrayal by marching the nation to war on a cocktail of carefully crafted grievances.

Putin’s Empire: Putin has spent years building a false narrative with his empire. The wishes he was denied, such as withdrawing from NATO to the 1997 lines or banning membership in Ukraine, were the fault of the West, he claimed.

But if Putin believed that Russia’s security was threatened and that the modern Western world was opposed to him, the truth is that he never adapted to the changing dynamics of the 21st century.

This year, while in Moscow covering the buildup and outbreak of war in neighboring Ukraine, it painfully dawned on me that, just as the Nazis did in Germany in the 1930s and 1940, Putin passed laws at his request. And like many strong men before him, the Russian president ruthlessly unleashes the docile and complicit state apparatus that he himself built, to docilely enforce them.

In short, each of his wishes is easily executed.

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