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Putin could also remove obstacles to Russian volunteers going to the region, as well as transfer weaponry, including anti-aircraft equipment, that would even things out there,” he said.

Ukrainian authorities frequently have accused Russia of supplying separatists in eastern Ukraine. A number of insurgent fighters also told Western media last week that they were from Chechnya, the volatile republic in Russia’s North Caucasus region. There is no conclusive proof, however, that these fighters are acting on the orders of the Russian government.

Mr. Lukyanov, the editor and analyst, suggested that Mr. Putin’s shifting mood is connected to the realization that war with neighboring Ukraine would have “extremely unpredictable consequences,” at home and in the international arena.

“Everyone realizes that any military operation in Ukraine, a country which shares a common history, culture and religion with Russia, would be a catastrophe,” he said. “Russia will only take this step if it considers it absolutely necessary.

“Besides, as things stand, Kiev has very little chance of victory in east Ukraine,” he said. “Despite the use of heavy weaponry there, and the rising death toll, it has so far failed to bring the region under control. So why would Russia even need to invade?”