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Russians have been doing variations of the same trick they are now pulling in Eastern Europe for almost a thousand years. In order to "protect Russian citizens", they will hand out Russian passports in regions that they want to control, or (as they did several centuries ago) they will make citizenship claims of the inhabitants of territories that they want. Then, they invade the regions that they wish to control to "defend their Russian countrymen".
After defending their countrymen, they conveniently forget to return the territory to its original owner. Instead, either setting up a puppet state, or annexing and controlling the territory directly.