The Russians no doubt believed they could employ the same tactic in the assassination attempt on Mr Skripal as he enjoyed a casual Sunday lunch in the heart of rural England.

But they gravely miscalculated the ability of Britain’s intelligence services to discover the nature of the nerve agent used in the assassination attempt (Mr Skripal and his daughter have been in a coma ever since and are said to be highly unlikely to recover).

And they totally misjudged the resolve of British Prime Minister Theresa May, not only to hold the Russians accountable but to organise a global diplomatic boycott of the Kremlin.

Consequently Mr Putin now finds himself more isolated than at any time since he came to power, an embarrassing predicament for someone who sees himself on a par with the American and Chinese leaders. And it also leaves him with little room for manoeuvre.