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HELL ON EARTH Angel of death Vladimir Putin grips Ukraine by the windpipe

"One lunatic's fantasy has sent millions of lives into chaos"

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Vladimir Putin has unleashed the full horror of war upon Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has unleashed the full horror of war upon Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has unleashed the full horror of war upon Ukraine

As the angel of death grips Ukraine by the windpipe and inflicts a murderous chokehold, the sense is of cold, undiluted, unapologetic malevolence entering the room.

Look into Vladimir Putin's eyes when he speaks. A more terrifying journey into darkness can hardly be imagined.

A cold house for empathy, devoid of compassion; seeking out humanity in those bloodless, inert sockets is as absurd as expecting light to secrete from a dead star.

Leave aside - though it is no easy task while a firestorm of loathing reduces a nation to petrified rubble - all the geopolitics, historic justifications, and endless blame games.

Just consider the author of this world-shaking depravity, a 69-year-old overrun by paranoia, a father, a son, inflicting Armageddon on his helpless, bewildered neighbours.

One man and his nihilistic whim, with a single finger-click sending millions of lives into a tailspin.

The eyes narrate the story of a week when Europe's eastern flank was reimagined as a medieval chamber of torture.

Tears bucket from the ocular core of a child boarding a carriage at Kiev's central train station, innocence stolen by an enforced farewell to her dad, a sundering of her family foundations that she simply cannot comprehend.

She is six, maybe seven, her universe is being dismantled by a lunatic's brutish appetite for empire, and she is broken.

Her father is ashen, unable to offer strength or reassurance, trembling with dismay, dissolving in plain sight.

He is living a moment beyond a parent's pain threshold: saying goodbye to his own flesh and blood while calculating the odds against them meeting again.

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His eyes - the eyes again - are begging bowls, beseeching the gods for a single crumb of comfort.

But all charity has been exhausted. So here he is, on a desolate platform, one of thousands sending their children beyond the artillery fire's killing reach.

Love rendered impotent by hate.

He cradles her stainless cheeks in his hands, begging time to rewind, praying that he might wake from this dystopian nightmare before he loosens his grip.

This could be Dublin, Ballina, Cobh, New Ross, Bundoran. This could be you.

Ukraine, like Ireland, is sea and shore, meadow and mountain, urban and rural, family and friend.

Look into this father and daughter's eyes.

Yesterday life was full, they ambled together through the park, they shared a Happy Meal at McDonald's, he read her bedtime stories, carried her bag to school, fretted when she complained of a headache or a sore tummy.

Ordinary people doing ordinary things.

And then the devil walked into their world, exposing the thin and fragile line between abundance and ruin.

A pickpocket stealing the future, thieving hope, pilfering those wallets where the banknotes of optimism reside.

Wars have been fought for millennia, the need to conquer and assert and avenge hardwired into mankind's DNA.

The economic laws of scarce means, tribal imperatives, gluttonous greed - any of these things can trigger horror.

And then, bleak hour, there are those moments when evil and lunacy intersect, when a barbarous world view propels the planet onto an inconceivable orbit.

When wickedness makes its play for dominion.

Where darkness is interrupted only by the blinding flashes of a despot's munitions bellowing their evil dirge.

Look at the scorched cities, the mutilated bodies, a nation reimagined as a junkyard for civility.

All of this is because of one man's fever dream, a vision that yanks open a trapdoor that had concealed a pitiless lust.

The cluster bombs deposit their deadly payload, buildings crumble, limbs are severed, heartbeats stilled.

As I write these words, it is early on Saturday morning. The newspaper beside me is illuminated by Shane Warne's bleached, joyous Aussie features.

Even in hopelessly premature death, alive.

Look at his eyes: wellsprings of mischief, optimism, fraternity; authors of cheer.

Now, look again at any picture of Putin. Play one of his rambling, incendiary speeches from the past ten days.

It is a terrible apparition. A creature marinating in his own loathing, features devoid of tenderness, eyes long ago stripped of their last ray of benevolence.

A monster in an expensive suit, decreeing a tear-stained child he has never met must bid farewell to her grieving father, and clamber aboard a train to a forlorn, godforsaken future.

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