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Ukraine Buffer to Cement Front Lines and Putin Influence

The buffer zone being carved out to bring peace to eastern Ukraine may also cement the conflict’s front lines and preserve Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence over the region for years to come.

More than 3,500 people have died in the 10-month crisis that sent the economy into a tailspin before a tenuous cease-fire this month. As the Ukrainian army prepares to pull back to create a buffer zone, a move pro-Russian rebels say they would match, it’s leaving behind parts of Ukraine’s industrial and coal-producing heartland known as Donbas -- a region that’s home to more than 50 suppliers for Russia’s defense industry.