Vladimir Putin (aka Vlad the Chess Player) has played a good game in Ukraine − so far. With the West playing on the other side he started off in an intrinsically weak position, which worsened considerably when the sudden neocon-engineered coup in Kiev swept his main piece off the board. However, he reacted and regrouped quickly, and prevented his opponents from achieving a surprise victory. By massing troops on Ukraine's border he made the other side pause, and this gave his supporters time to mobilise. In this confused situation he saw a valuable piece temporarily unguarded, and in a smooth and swift operation took over Crimea. The contest over Ukraine continues, but he has already won two significant prizes: Crimea and clarity − clarity on where Russia stands vis-a-vis the West
He is now manoeuvring to achieve his goal in Ukraine, and has again displayed his skill by adjusting his tactics as the situation has changed. Western propaganda has sought to depict his aim to be to seize Ukraine or, at least, annex the Russian-speaking East of the country. This is quite wrong. For the simple reason that Ukraine is a basket case economically and financially, and if he took over the country (or even a portion of it) Russia would be saddled with the burden of keeping it afloat, as well as having to deal with the many in the population who don't fancy being annexed, plus the likely backlash from the West.
His main goal has always been to stop the neocon-led War Party's move to bring Ukraine into the West's political camp and, ultimately, NATO. He wants Ukraine to remain a politically and militarily neutral buffer state between Russia and NATO, while letting the West pay for the privilege of establishing other ties with it (by supporting it financially).