Express & Star

Toby Neal: We need someone to push Vlad the Invader under a bus

Toby Neal on the week's biggest political story.

Vladimir Putin

There's a Moscow trolleybus, waiting. Waiting for Vladimir Putin to come near. And when he does, he will receive a mysterious nudge in the back and fall under its wheels.

That's the best – and perhaps only – way out of this, because so long as Putin remains in power, the world will never be safe.

And Russia with Putin will never recover from his ill-conceived and woebegotten military adventure.

There is one thing more dangerous than a dictator with nuclear weapons, and that is a dictator with nuclear weapons who does not want to lose face.

So while the Ukrainians fight heroically for the freedom of their country, the answers are going to come in the Kremlin and among the generals who have been tasked with this miserable mission.

The question is whether Putin has cast a spell over those around him, or whether there are enough in positions of power and influence in the Russian capital who are still possessed by reason and are so horrified by what is happening that they are prepared to risk their own necks to do something about it.

The aspiration of the West has to be, not just a successful defence of Ukraine, but of regime change in Russia. An end to Putin and his cronies, and a liberation of the Russian people from his yoke.

To be overt about wanting to get rid of Putin will make him yet more paranoid and so yet more dangerous, but there must surely be sensible people in Moscow who can be emboldened to do the right thing, and take Vlad the Invader to some area where a fall in front of a Moscow trolleybus is engineerable.

Up to now he has believed he can get away with anything, from chemical attacks in Syria, to the use of nerve agents by an assassination squad on the streets to Britain, all underpinned by a propaganda tactic of blanket denial of any responsibility which has been gobbled up by those who think that he isn't as bad as has been made out.

Even for those people, the blinkers are surely now off.

The desire to help Ukraine is strong, but those who are calling for a Nato-imposed no-fly zone need to be honest about what that means in practice. The moment American and British warplanes start to shoot down Russian warplanes – if not before – is the moment when a de facto war begins between Nato and Russia.

On the battlefield, any dreams among Russian commanders that they would be greeted as liberators by grateful Ukrainian citizens handing flowers to smiling tank crews have long disappeared.

If that's what the troops were told by Putin and their generals, they now know they were sold a pup. Reports abound of low morale in the Russian forces and a few refusing to fight. But I wouldn't get your hopes up. Russia has a big army and there are lots of other troops it can throw in.

Out of curiosity I took a dip into Russia Today to see how badly brainwashed I could become after a few minutes' viewing. Apparently there has been some trouble in the Donetsk region caused by Ukrainian neo-Nazis, and noble Russian forces are defending the civil populace.

Meanwhile, in the real world...

I don't think RT should be banned, by the way, as nobody watches it and even if they did, they would have to be hopeless cases already if they believed the stuff it spouts. To watch it is to be given a spectacle of seeing presenters and reporters squirming and contorting as they try to justify the unjustifiable.

This is mad Vlad's war, and he cannot afford to be seen to lose. For him there is a desperate imperative to change the facts on the ground. The more frustrated he gets, the more Putin's gloves will come off.

That does not bode well for the chances for peace. We are already seeing a shift in Russian tactics – from a surgical war based on the delusion that Ukrainians would welcome the invaders, to one of battering free Ukraine to death at any cost and razing its cities to the ground to crush resistance.

A tragedy of catastrophic proportions is unfolding. That Moscow trolleybus cannot play its part soon enough.