THE decision of Russia to renege on an agreement it entered into at last week's G8 meeting about Zimbabwe and to veto the following UN Security Council resolution poses a number of questions that go far beyond the immediate issue of Zimbabwe's future. Concerning that future it now appears to be at the mercy of negotiations between the illegally elected President Mugabe and the abused opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. It is difficult to see that any viable and lasting agreement for Zimbabwe's ordeal can come out of their talks.

Russia's new President Dmitri Medvedev has made a most inauspicious debut in the international arena. The G8 statement to which he agreed last Tuesday was clearly intended to lead to a tough new UN resolution on Zimbabwe yesterday.

Perhaps he did not get the necessary authority from his prime minister (Vladimir Putin) to join the other G8 leaders in their determination to put serious pressure on Mugabe. Or perhaps there was a change of mind in Moscow for some reason - an anxiety that the US-drafted resolution went beyond the Security Council's competence, perhaps. But that point should have been anticipated before Mr Medvedev joined the G8 meeting.

Initial reporting from New York suggests that China would have abstained on the resolution but Russia's decision to veto it emboldened Beijing to use its veto also. There is always, of course, concern at the UN about interference in another country's internal affairs. But can it really be said any longer that what is happening in Zimbabwe has no effect beyond its boundaries?