ARE we surprised that Russia is doing its damnedest to block United Nations intervention in Syria?

Because I am betting that the horrific and upsetting images of children slaughtered in the ongoing violence would soon also be joined by images of various factions wielding Russian weapons.

The US state department had expressed hope that the events in Houla, where 108 people were massacred, might prove a "turning point in Russian thinking".

But hopes of a new international initiative over Syria suffered a setback when a Russian minister ruled out any action by the UN Security Council soon.

Russia "categorically" opposed foreign intervention in Syria, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said Russia had chosen "to join ranks with the Syrian regime and to provide it with political cover".

Russian thinking is stuck in the 20th century, mired in the macho post-Communist posturing of its leaders, still under the misapprehension that it is far enough away from this country to allow the regime they have propped up to continue either turn a blind eye to atrocities or actually carry them out.

Have they learned nothing from the West?

For too long successive governments in the United States and the UK ignored the repression being carried out to varying degrees by Arab states whose governments they supported - in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

It was a disastrous foreign policy which fuelled the rise of al Qaida, and the chain of events led directly back to terrorist attacks on our own streets.

Russia may still be scarred by the loss of its ten-year war in Afghanistan, but it has also been the victim of terrorist atrocities.

It has to face reality. It is no longer the super power it was. It can no longer use Syria as a buffer zone for its interests while children die without paying a terrible price in the future.

I RECENTLY had this message from a Facebook pal in Risca: "The heaviest rainfall in 24 hours since records began was 71.9 inches in the area of Foc Foc on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, between January 7 and 8 1966. Here in south Wales we like to call Foc Foc on the island of Reunion 'the dry country'."

Maria Williams likes this.

AND finally...

THIS is Ed Miliband on himself last week: "This is who I am. The son of a Jewish refugee and Marxist academic. A Leeds supporter from north London. A baseball fan. Somebody who looks a bit like Wallace from Wallace & Gromit. If spin doctors could design a politician, I suspect he wouldn't look like me."

Hmm. Leeds supporter?