It's a win-win for Moscow, either way
As Western heads of state gathered to debate world peace at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend, Vladimir Putin was boarding a plane to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to watch an ice-dancing show.
Russia's president is known for his displays of studied nonchalance but, beside the figure skating, Mr Putin had another reason to fly south: a meeting with Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus. Mr Lukashenko was the unlikely host for yesterday's peace conference. Perhaps fortunately, the burly former collective farm manager will not take part himself.
The 10-month conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 5,400 people. This week it became clear that the US is still mulling whether to supply weapons to the Ukrainian government, in what some analysts believe could slide into a full-scale proxy conflict between the West and Russia - or worse.