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IAN BIRRELL: The West must punish Vladimir Putin as he rips apart Ukraine

When Georgia was on the verge of joining Nato in 2008, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin stirred up bitter separatist tensions, made baseless claims of genocide, and carried out military exercises nearby.

His proxies fired pot-shots over the border, then evacuated civilians from areas under their control, on the bogus pretext of saving them from aggression.

There was a short war that ended with Russian tanks 30 miles from the capital Tbilisi and two chunks of the country breaking away as self-declared republics.

But the former KGB chief denied he had any imperial ambitions, insisting Russia had ‘no wish or grounds to encroach on the sovereignty of former Soviet republics’.

How hollow those words sound now as history looks set to repeat itself, with this hateful dictator using…

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