Demonstrators wave Ukrainian national flags during a pro-Ukraine rally in Luhansk, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the Russian border, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Igor Golovniov)
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Vladimir Putin looks likely to go down in history as the Russian leader who won back Crimea, but he is fighting to avoid also being remembered as the man who let Ukraine escape from Moscow's sphere of influence.Reclaiming Crimea 60 years after it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, apparently on a whim, has been a domestic triumph for Putin.Although such concerns are likely to remain below the surface in a political climate where criticizing Putin over Crimea has become all but impossible, his ability to retain Moscow's influence in Ukraine will be crucial to his capacity to maintain popular support for his actions.Russian state media have paved the way for this by depicting Ukraine as beset by marauding groups of neofascists.If Putin has his way, he will be able to show Russians he has done all he can to keep Moscow's influence in the country.
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