The move to politically seize control of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine’s south and east was relatively costless for Putin. He played to his domestic base and seemingly added legitimacy to his illegal invasion, experts said, while also potentially quelling some frustration at home among his nationalist base, which has been calling for him to go all-in on the war effort. The dictator knew there would be little, if any, change in the West’s response to the sham votes.
The goal was “to have a similar situation to Crimea. No one agrees with it, but no one is going to do anything about it either. That would give him a revised victory — or enough of one — because he would have hobbled Ukraine,” said Jeffrey Edmonds, who handled the Russia portfolio in the Obama administration’s National Security Council.
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