Ukrainian prime minister: Russia wants "to restore the Soviet Union"

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk holds a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 21, 2014 on the second day of a two-day European Council summit. GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images

As violence between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine continues its deadly turn, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatesnyuk blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday for fomenting unrest in his country and warned that he's not sure where Putin's designs might lead.

Russia "triggered this violence and Russia supported these terrorists," Yatsenyuk said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" that aired Sunday. "And if Russia pulls back its security forces and former K.G.B. agents, this would definitely calm down the situation and stabilize the situation in southern and eastern Ukraine."

The prime minister warned that Russia's continued meddling in eastern Ukraine, coming on the heels of its effective seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March, could speak to far grander ambitions than some in the west are prepared to acknowledge.

"President Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union. And every day, he goes further and further, and God knows where is the final destination," he explained. "And I believe that you do remember his famous Munich speech saying that the biggest disaster of the former century is the collapse of the Soviet Union. I consider that the biggest disaster of this century would be the restoring of the Soviet Union under the auspices of President Putin."

To deter further Russian aggression, Yatsenyuk said, Ukraine needs not just diplomatic and economic support, but military aid as well.

"We need to overhaul the Ukrainian military," he said. "We need to modernize our security and military forces. We need the real support."

Appearing directly after Yatesnyuk's interview aired on NBC, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called on the administration to strengthen its sanctions against Russian officials and companies, and to begin providing military aid, including hardware and weaponry, to Ukraine.

"To leave them alone in the manner that we're leaving them alone now to me is just unconscionable," he said.

"We're going to lose eastern Ukraine if we continue as we are," Corker said. "And I think it's going to be a geopolitical disaster if that occurs."

Corker said that by effectively acquiescing to the seizure of Crimea with only a minimum of punishment, the U.S. was only inviting further aggression.

"I think the administration is basically saying to Russia, 'Look, don't do anything overt. Don't come across the border with 40,000 troops. Don't embarrass us in that way. But you can continue to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine by doing the things that you've done,'" he said.

  • Jake Miller

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