Ukraine invasion: Kremlin policy adviser reveals his shock over Vladimir Putin's decision to invade

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Andrey Kortunov is a respected foreign policy analyst and adviser to the Kremlin.

He is no apologist for the Kremlin but is not afraid to defend its actions if he sees fit, and we are used to seeing him on our news doing so.

Not today. Not after this invasion.

In an extraordinary interview, he told Sky News how he felt when he heard Russia had attacked Ukraine.

"I was shocked because for a long time, I thought that a military operation was not feasible. It was not plausible."

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Mr Kortunov said it is essential Russia takes steps to end this war as soon as possible.

"My advice today, given the current situation on the ground, would be to turn a ceasefire into the top priority.

"We have to stop the conflict.

"To start with, we have to get to the negotiating table not just with Ukraine, but also with the West."

Mr Kortunov is on a panel of foreign policy experts who advise the Kremlin.

Their briefing papers would have been read by Vladimir Putin, but the Russian president's more moderate counsel have been disregarded.

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'I do not understand the logic he currently has'

Mr Kortunov cannot comprehend Mr Putin's actions in Ukraine.

"I do not understand the logic he currently has, his own rationale that justifies the actions that he made.

"It's hard for me to get into his thinking, what he really thought when he made this decision."

Mr Putin has narrowed his group of advisers to a small clique of securocrats - the siloviki, or strongmen as they called - generals and spies. Those like Mr Kortunov, who had advocated greater integration with the outside world and greater prosperity, have been shut out.

"We tend to believe that the name of the game is development, but I can imagine that some people around Mr Putin believe that the name of the game is survival."

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The implications are stark for Russia and the rest of the world.

The siloviki have told Mr Putin the West is out to topple him. The sanctions and sharpening rhetoric will have convinced him further. If the priority is survival, his tactics may be all the less compromising.

Dark days for Putin's more moderate advisers

For Mr Kortunov and those like him shut out of the Kremlin's decision-making, these are dark days.

When he spoke to Sky News, gone was the robust advocate explaining the nuances of Russia's actions abroad. Instead, he was a man who seemed beaten down by the terrible last few days. And he seemed to be speaking for many others.

"I'm depressed," he said. "I think many of us are depressed.

"I think that there are many people in the Kremlin who should be depressed because the price will be substantial and of course, you know, we should be depressed also because people are being killed.

"You know, it's something that we should never forget."

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