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Putin Improves His Hand In Ukraine | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Putin improves his hand in Ukraine

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, fresh back from Tokyo, not too jet-lagged. And I have your Quick Take to get a start for the week.

And yes, more on Ukraine and the Russian war. You've probably seen the latest news that Luhansk has fallen. The Donbas, which is now the focus of the Russian war, not the entire focus, but certainly the lion's share of. It is comprised of two different administrative regions, one Donetsk, the other Luhansk. The Ukrainians had been giving a pretty solid fight, but they've been losing territory pretty consistently if slowly, over the last month and a half. And this means that Luhansk is now fully under Russian control. It has been largely destroyed. The towns that exist there and the villages are in disastrous shape, many of them with over 80% of homes damaged beyond repair. And so life there is going to be absolutely horrific, but the Russians do have the territory.

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Putin Keeps His War Cards Close | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Putin keeps his war cards close

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hey, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, and a Quick Take to start off your week. It is, of course, May 9th, and that means Victory Day. It's when the Soviets were celebrating their defeat of the Nazis in World War II. The Russians of course, continued that after 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

And today even more important in the context of Russia's invasion into Ukraine, not in any way victorious and Putin, wasn't trying to claim it was, rather, it was all about justifying what he referred to as a preemptive rebuff to NATO aggression. He talked about the Ukrainians as a Nazi regime, that they were trying to get nuclear weapons, that NATO and Ukraine were going to take Crimea back from Russia. All of which was made up from a whole cloth, but nonetheless was the basis of Putin's speech.

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Pro-Russian activists react to Russian recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic.

REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Ukraine crisis: Was that an invasion?

In the space of just two hours on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin dramatically escalated the course of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. He unilaterally recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine, vowing to send Russian “peacekeepers” into the area, and delivered a ferocious 40-minute speech that, among other things, rejected the idea of Ukraine as an independent country altogether.

What does it mean, and what comes next?

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A militant of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic patrols the damaged building of a local school in the Luhansk region, Ukraine.

REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Setting Ukraine's rebels free?

The pace of Russia-Ukraine news is accelerating. Russian President Vladimir Putin says his troops are pulling back from the border, while Washington, NATO, and Kyiv say they’re not. Russia has expelled the deputy American ambassador from Moscow.

The week’s most ominous developments, however, center on the Donbas, the breakaway region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian soldiers have been exchanging fire throughout the eight-year conflict. On Thursday, reports emerged that two schools, including a kindergarten, had been hit by shelling. Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over which side fired first, raising concerns that finger-pointing could lead to an escalation. Russia is “actively trying to provoke the Ukrainians into steps that would justify a Russian military intervention,” GZERO Media President Ian Bremmer said on Thursday in Germany ahead of the Munich Security Conference.

But there’s another Donbas development that reminds us of what Putin really wants – and signals what he might do next.

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