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Pro-Russia protesters burn a Ukrainian flag outside the district council building in Donetsk.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

What We’re Watching: Russian annexation fears, Russia-Israel drama, Mali breaks from France

Will Russia annex more of Ukraine?

The US is warning that Russia plans to formally annex the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with the city of Kherson, which Moscow has controlled since early March and where it has introduced the ruble. This wouldn't be the first time Russia illegally swiped a chunk of Ukraine – the Kremlin has run Crimea since holding a bogus referendum there on “joining Russia” in 2014. Washington believes Moscow will soon announce similar votes in the Donbas and Kherson — perhaps as soon as Russia’s Victory Day (a World War II celebration) on May 9. This major Russian holiday has become even more important now that the Kremlin frames its war in Ukraine as a fight against “Nazism.” Symbolism aside, why would Putin do this? For one thing, he needs to show something for his war effort, and he may want to make these territories bargaining chips in any eventual talks with Kyiv. But there's a downside for him, too: successfully holding these areas will mean pacifying hostile populations and supporting battered economies. Does Russia really have the military and financial wherewithal to do all that?

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The War in Ukraine Rages On | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Risks of Russia losing: Putin, Ukraine, and potential for escalation

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Ian Bremmer is pessimistic about where we are heading with the war in Ukraine. The biggest headline in recent days was the sinking of the Moskva, Russia's flagship of its Black Sea fleet. It is the worst naval combat loss Russia has experienced since World War II – and at the hands of Ukraine, a country that has no navy. Ian fears that Ukrainians and the West may believe that the Russians can indeed lose. If Putin’s not going to capitulate and only continues to escalate, then the safer bet is to freeze the conflict – not force Putin into a corner.
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