I still want to believe that this isn’t going to happen — he’s got a lot more to gain from a potential invasion rather than an actual one, forcing Europe & US into less favorable position in their negotiations (although it seems that it had failed to work going by how big of a failure that were the just-ended Russia-U.S. negotiations).
Just to give you some context on Crimea, Donetsk & the current potential invasion — Crimea was part of Russia, Donetsk always had a lot of Russians and had always leaned towards Russia. There was also a huge popular demand for taking Crimea back (in Russia and in Crimea alike) as it was seen as a historical injustice that Khrushchev had given it to Ukraine while both were a part of USSR simply because of the logistics. That said I’m not making excuses for the annexation, don’t get me wrong — but stating the reasons that Putin had for taking it. Initially it had led to a boost of his internal ratings. This supposed invasion makes no sense on any level — it’s not something that Russian people want, you don’t have a lot of people there that sympathize towards Russia, unlike in Crimea and Donbass — more so, in the past decade a lot of them had understandably became radicalized against it.
So yeah, there are no logical gains for Putin in this invasion and there’s so much to lose. It really seems like a power move to gain an advantage in negotiations that backfired — I guess when you use the same card over and over again, it’s bound to lose its weight at some point.
That’s not to say that Putin always does the most rational thing to do and he is becoming more and more politically unhinged by the day. I don’t believe that he’ll start this war from practical reasons — despite the appearance, he really cares about the gradually waning support from general population (this is why he had never enforced any serious quarantine measures or never personally criticized anti-vax community), and this conflict will never got the public approval in a way that Crimea did at some point. When he annexed Crimea, he was “bringing it home”. When Russian forces supported anti-government forces in the Easyern Ukraine, it was done (despite them “never being here”) under the excuse of defending a huge ethnically Russian population of those regions. There’s literally no positive excuse to instigate the invasion of Ukraine unless it starts with them invading Russia — a seemingly impossible probability but then the invasion of Poland had started after “polish soldiers” attacked a few of the German objects (radio stations, railway stations, customs) near the border (cough… Heydrich… cough).