The Kremlin is tightening its grip on its protectorates.
Last week, Russian Railways slashed its rates for shipping coal and iron ore to the separatist-held areas of the Donbas, thereby increasing their economic dependence on Moscow.
State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin called the move a step toward detaching the territories from Ukraine.
This week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opened a so-called Russian Embassy in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region.
Lavrov also pledged that Russia would defend what he called Abkhazia's "border" with Georgia.
And last month, Moscow-backed authorities in Georgia's South Ossetia region effectively merged their military with Russia's.
You can call it colonization. You can call it a virtual empire. You can call it soft annexations.
But, whatever you call it, the Russian-occupied territories in the former Soviet Union are increasingly being de facto integrated into Russia.
And, as this is happening, the Kremlin is sticking to its tried-and-true fictions and its tried-and-true lies.
It's pretending that that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are independent states.
And it's pretending that it is abiding by the Minsk cease-ire and intends to return the separatist-held areas of the Donbas to Ukraine.
But the facts on the ground tell another story entirely.
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