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Putin Quietly Detaches Ukraine’s Rebel Zones as U.S. Waffles

Vladimir Putin is seizing on mixed signals from the U.S. to quietly tighten Russia’s grip on two rebel regions of Ukraine, burying hopes for a European-brokered peace deal and relief from sanctions anytime soon.

While the Kremlin continues to publicly back the accord that Germany and France oversaw in 2015, Putin’s real strategy in Ukraine is to fully separate the two border areas known as the Donbas through incremental integration with Russia, three people close to the leadership in Moscow said. He has no plans to recognize or annex the territories, they said…

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