“Already, in the space of the next 1–2 months, fighting may spill over from the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics to other regions, and there may be a collapse of the economy, as well as the social, housing and public utility spheres, which could lead to a new political crisis,” Andrei Epifantsev, an independent Russian political analyst, told RBTH. “In such a situation, Russia would have to work on not achieving a compromise, but creating a buffer between the totally anti-Russian, half-ruined and militarily defeated Ukraine and its own territory,” said Epifantsev.
He argues that this buffer zone, which would include the Donbass, could stretch from Odessa to Kharkov, and would become a new partially recognized state under the protection of Russia, something like the breakaway pro-Russian republic of Transnistria in Moldova.
However, contrary to popular opinion in the West, Russia would like to avoid such a scenario. Firstly, this is because the gas pipeline from Russia to Europe runs through Western Ukraine, and its safety would be jeopardized under this scenario. Secondly, it is clear that Moscow would have to maintain and rebuild these territories, and this under the conditions of their internationally unrecognized status.