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Local fishermen try to catch fish in front of Russian Navy ships in Sevastopol, Crimea, Oct. 27, 2014 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Crimean Annexation Offers Russia New Opportunities for Graft

Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

After a lull, violence in Ukraine escalated once again this week, as Russian-backed rebels launched offensives both in the besieged eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and on a new front, against the southeastern port of Mariupol. Peace talks in Minsk were canceled today in response to civilian casualties in Donetsk. According to the Financial Times, Western intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not just trying to keep Ukraine destabilized, but actively working to carve out a viable Russian puppet state, to be called “Novorossiya” (New Russia), in southeastern Ukraine.

While Putin’s ultimate ambition remains to be seen, another development this week points to why Moscow might find such a puppet state useful. Just today, the Kremlin announced that it was offering a no-bid, 3-year, $3 billion contract to the Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, a friend of Putin’s since childhood, to build a bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian mainland across the 3-mile Kerch Strait. ...

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