Dark days of war have returned to Europe, with Russian military power unleashed, and Ukraine's capital of Kyiv hit by its first blasts since World War II.
Cities came under attack, missiles bombarded airports and military sites, even the infamous Chernobyl nuclear site has been taken over. People sheltered in underground train stations or tried to flee to safety in long lines of traffic.
Ukraine now faces being a subjugated nation with foreign forces on the streets with perhaps a puppet regime being installed, tens of thousands of people being displaced, and potentially an internal rebellion.
President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Russia's neighbour recalls Saddam Hussein's 1990 takeover of Kuwait in its challenge to the international order.
Should this new Russian roulette lead to a lengthy occupation, it may resemble the later Iraq War of 2003 in its bloody chaos.
As the world waits to see what unfolds and political leaders respond with sanctions, political scientists, historians, and amateur analysts will debate for a long time the information counter-war that waged for weeks before Russia's invasion.
The United States tried to expose Putin's denied plans for an invasion in as public a way possible to deter the Russian leader from going through with an attack.
It was like trying to shine a spotlight on a burglar outside a house he was thinking of entering. It drew attention to Putin's past use of misinformation, covert operations, front groups, and pretexts to achieve his goals.
The US had its own credibility issues from the Iraq War of using false intelligence to aid its aims. But this time the intelligence Western nations were citing was accurate.
The Western-allied strategy succeeded at least in making Russia and Putin own their actions as the clear aggressors - landing a hard blow on Putin's reputation.
The strategy gave nations opposed to any conflict an appearance of unity and undermined the effectiveness of Moscow's tactics. Russia probably had valid longtime issues with Nato and European Union enlargement eastward. But Putin's airing of grievances about the collapse of the Soviet Union and his rejection of Ukraine as a proper nation-state came to the forefront.
What happens now?
Western nations did not want the danger of a direct war with nuclear-armed Russia. Military aid had been sent to Kyiv, but a full-scale invasion still surprised many observers who couldn't fathom why the Kremlin would go that route rather than use its massed forces as a threatening standover tactic.
The invasion will likely push eastern European states more firmly into the Nato and EU camp - which is what Putin doesn't want.
And the invasion turns Putin - who has over the years known how to use his rivals' limitations, hesitations, and vulnerabilities against them - from being a leader other countries did wary business with to being clearly a dangerous, unbound thug. He even reminded the world that Russia is "one of the most potent nuclear powers and also has a certain edge in a range of state-of-the-art weapons".
The major questions before Thursday's horrific events were whether Putin would take the chance to step back and be satisfied with formalising Russia's relationships with the separatist regions in Ukraine's east.
And would Ukraine's Western backers grasp at that diplomatic face-saver to avoid major loss of life, a country's upheaval, a flood of refugees to Poland, international instability, and economic cost?
That scenario of Russia recognising rebel parts of Donetsk and Luhansk and sending troops there - rather than the ''shock and awe" three-pronged attack across Ukraine that followed - fitted with Putin's known ability to make brutal tactical moves while neutering international criticism.
Initially, it could have been a limited, specific, and murky advance: Two client areas of Russia previously carved out of Ukrainian territory with Moscow's unofficial assistance, are suddenly recognised as independent entities complete with newly minted treaties allowing so-called "peacekeepers" there.
Then Putin announced a "special military operation" to "demilitarise" Ukraine after the Kremlin said separatist rebels wanted military assistance to deter Ukrainian "aggression". The White House called it out as a "false flag" operation, intended to give Moscow a pretext to invade.
The Western tactics did not deter the invasion but what happens next is crucial.
Will Russia be drawn into a bloody and expensive drawn-out fight in Ukraine? Will an insurgency get off the ground? Are other former Soviet states under threat? Is there a potential for a mistake sparking further conflict as Nato patrols its airspace?
Most Kiwis will feel sympathy with the civilians caught up in this power play. A Ukrainian presidential spokesman asked the people there to "stay strong", the BBC reports.
Kia kaha, Ukraine.