- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union, first by annexing Crimea and then by swallowing the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

“President Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union. And every day, he goes further and further,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And God knows where is the final destination.”

The Ukrainian prime minister’s prerecorded comments aired shortly after a truce brokered by the United Nations was shattered by an Easter morning shoot-out at a checkpoint operated by pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine that left at least three people dead.

Ukraine has been a global hot spot since Mr. Putin moved last month to annex Crimea, the eastern peninsula of the Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are lined near the border in what Russian officials described Saturday as a precaution against unrest seeping into Russia.

Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the U.S., denied Sunday that Mr. Putin is attempting to rebuild the Soviet Union.

“First any statements about us having dreams of restoring the Soviet Union is a false notion in its very nature,” Mr. Kislyak said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Secondly, the allusions to the history of relations between Russia and the Ukraine by the president [Putin] was just to show that we are so intertwined. We are. There are so many families that are spread both in the Ukraine and in Russia.”

Both Mr. Yatsenyuk and Mr. Kislyak said they were outraged by reports that Ukrainian Jews had been handed fliers by masked protesters telling them to register with local authorities, an episode that has prompted comparisons to Jewish registrations in Nazi Germany.

“We got information that these so-called peaceful protesters with light ammunition in their hands, that they sent a number of bulletins saying that everyone who is a Jew to be indicated as a Jew,” said Mr. Yatsenyuk. “And today in the morning, I made a clear statement, urged Ukrainian military and security forces and Ukrainian Department of Homeland Security urgently to find these bastards and to bring them to justice.”

Mr. Kislyak said Russia condemns any acts of anti-Semitism, adding, “I do not have any information as to who has done it, but it is certainly an outrageous provocation.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement pinning blame for the Sunday shooting on Ukrainian nationalists. Russian state television aired photos of a “pristine business card” that was supposedly left behind by the attackers, which was quickly mocked on social media and even garnered its own Twitter hashtag, according to The Associated Press.

The Ukrainian Security Service insisted that the shooting was staged by pro-Russia insurgents. Ukrainian and Western officials are concerned that Russia might use such attacks as an excuse to seize more territory under the pretense of protecting the Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population.

In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the attack “proves the unwillingness of the Ukrainian authorities to restrain and disarm the nationalists and extremists.”

Meanwhile, two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the Obama administration on “Meet the Press” to impose economic sanctions on Russian energy companies and banks, also known as “sectoral” sanctions.

Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said “the time is now to rapidly ratchet up our sanctions,” adding that, “If Russia does get away with this, I do think that there’s a potential that a NATO ally is next. And, yes, there will be economic pain to Europe, but it’s time for them to lead as well.”

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, said the Obama 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.’”

“I think Russia’s going to do it over time the way they’re doing it with black ops, intimidation,” Mr. Corker said. “I think we’re going to lose eastern Ukraine if we continue as we are. And I think it’s going to be a geopolitical disaster if that occurs.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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