Vladimir Putin`s greatest international humiliation was visited on him three years ago when his placeman for the presidency of the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was driven out of office by the Orange Revolution.

Mr Putin`s tormentors are now back with a vengeance. Preliminary results from Sunday`s parliamentary elections suggest that the opposition leader - and heroine of the Orange Revolution - Yulia Tymoshenko has triumphed at the expense of the hapless Mr Yanukovych.

If the result is confirmed, the orange coalition could shortly be back in control. Mr Putin is unlikely to respond with equanimity to this turn of events.

When Mrs Tymoshenko was last in power, in 2005, Mr Putin punished Ukraine by cutting off gas supplies. This was no little local difficulty.

Given that Ukraine is the conduit for most of Europe`s natural gas, it threw the EU into a panic and caused energy disruption in a number of countries. It would be foolish not to expect more of the same from Mr Putin, highlighting once again Europe`s unhealthy reliance on Russian gas.

For the Russian leader is once again flexing his well-toned muscles. He indicated yesterday that he intends to stand as prime minister when his term as president ends next March.

From that position he will doubtless appoint a puppet president and continue to exert precisely the same authority as he does now. He can then return for a further term as president in 2012 when the relative roles will once again be reversed.

We should not be surprised at the contempt Mr Putin displays for the democratic process in Russia. He has already turned the parliament into his plaything; trampling over the constitution will come as second nature.

Mr Putin is a dangerous man who has for too long been pandered to by a timid international community.

Is the formidable Mrs Tymoshenko made of sterner stuff? It looks as if we will soon find out.

This article was monitored by the Action Ukraine Monitoring Service for the Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Morgan Williams, SigmaBleyzer, Editor.

Telegraph, London, UK, Tuesday, October 2, 2007