Russia want to expand their already huge territory in a bid for further domination on the world stage. In return for swallowing up choice bits of real estate, Russia gains further resources under the guise of protecting its own people, while boosting its image as a powerful diplomatic and military force. This expansion was long planned and goes back to the days of the Soviet Union, when Russians were forcibly settled in the area in a bid to cause the Russification of Ukraine.
Ukraine has vast offshore oil and gas resources in the Black Sea, estimated to be tens of billions of cubic meters of gas alone. The annexation of Crimea followed Ukraine’s falling imports of Russian gas, and future plans of Russia to become a gas self-sufficient state by 2035. Coupled with the growing pro EU sentiment in Western Ukraine, Russia decided to take action and annex Crimea, not to prevent unrest but to gain a resource rich territory.
Similar Russian tactics to keep control of oil rich territories can be seen in areas such as Chechnya. Following the Second Chechen War terrorist separatist activity was increasing in the region, and the Russian government responded by holding a highly disputed referendum which ended in a 95.5% to reintegrate Chechnya with Russia. This was followed by a period of increased strikes against Chechen separatists that culminated in the deaths of separatist leaders Maskhadov and Basayev. The Kremlin then installed Ramzan Kadyrov, a authoritarian leader loyal to Putin. All this was orchestrated to control a region that has large but difficult to develop oil reserves, in addition to undeveloped geothermal and hydroelectric potential.