Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic goals regarding Ukraine have consistently been putting the country within Moscow’s sphere of influence — in other words, making it a vassal state of the Kremlin.

Since 2013, after Ukraine’s approaches to the European Union became prominent, Russia has been working to pursue its goals through a variety of combinations of military and nonmilitary means.

In that sense, Russia’s military occupation of the Donbas region of Ukraine, including the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, since 2014 is a tool but not a goal in any way.