So Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied that Russia was preparing to annex territories in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts occupied by Moscow's proxies.
And when you consider all the other things the Kremlin has denied (things that turned out to be -- you know -- like, true) well, then you can't help but wonder if the annexation of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics might actually be on the table.
After all, when the Kremlin denies that it's doing something, it's not a bad rule of thumb to pay a little bit more attention to that particular something.
And then there's all the, you know, stuff, that's been happening lately.
Stuff like Russia recognizing travel documents issued by separatist authorities.
Stuff like Moscow encouraging the use of the ruble in the occupied parts of the Donbas.
Stuff like Kremlin-backed warlords seizing mines, factories, and other enterprises owned by Ukrainian-registered firms.
Stuff like Ukraine cutting off cargo traffic to the territories in retaliation.
And stuff like Russia building up its armed forces near the Ukrainian border.
In recent months, the last ties between and the Russian-occupied parts of the Donbas and the rest of Ukraine have been pretty much severed.
It's become clear as day that the much-maligned and deeply flawed Minsk peace process is finally dead in the water.
And it's become clear that Moscow's Plan A -- forcing the occupied territories back into Ukraine as a Trojan horse -- has failed.
So now Russia's war on Ukraine is entering a new phase.
The Kremlin may be preparing to annex the occupied territories. It may be preparing to recognize their independence. Or it may be preparing for a new offensive.
But it is clearly preparing to do something.
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