The conflict zone itself, known as Donbas, is largely populated with Russian-speaking residents, many of who now hold Russian passports, and Putin has long maintained that Russia will defend Russian citizens abroad if they are seen to be at risk. It wouldn’t be the first time as Russia has previously sent in troops as “peacekeepers” to both Moldova and South Ossetia, they just never left. The same could happen with Ukraine.
There is no indication that they are facing any sort of external threat at this point so might there be another reason for this sudden increase in troops? Some have pointed to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky imposing sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk in February this year as a possible flash point.
Medvedchuk is a powerful Ukrainian oligarch, served between 2002 and 2005 as chief of staff to former Ukrainian President and pro-Russian Leonid Kuchma and just happens to be a friend of President Putin.