(AFP) – A year since the start of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin may not have emerged the winner in his showdown with the West but he has not lost either, analysts say.
By supporting Ukrainian separatists, they say, he took a huge risk but it largely paid off as it allowed him to punish Kiev's pro-Western authorities for seeking to turn their back on Russia and stand up to the West.
Most importantly for the Kremlin, the annexation of Crimea and support for fellow Russian speakers in Ukraine's east have given a huge boost to Putin's popularity ratings at home.
According to a February study from the Levada Centre independent polling group, the number of people who want Putin to seek a fourth term in 2018 has more than doubled to 57 percent since December 2013.
"What Putin wanted was clear a year ago — he wanted a blocking stake in Ukraine or — the next best option — a manageable conflict," Nikolai Petrov, a professor at the Higher School of Economics, told AFP. […]
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