- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said Sunday that the “sham referendum” being held Sunday to determine whether Crimea will take steps to secede from Ukraine and align with Russia “isn’t fooling anyone.”

“I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to reverse the vote,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I mean, I’d be surprised if it’s not 70, 80, 90 percent, given the fact that the Russians have shut down all of the Ukrainian media inside of the region.”

Mr. Murphy went on to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal is not to control Crimea, but all of Ukraine.

“I think he may stop after this referendum and try to negotiate something with Ukraine that would pull them away from the European Union,” said Mr. Murphy, who was one of a handful of senators who traveled to Ukraine over the weekend. “But in every single meeting that we did while we were on the ground in the last few days, there is no appetite from the new Ukrainian government to do a deal with Russia that forestalls their plan to join the European Union.”

Mr. Murphy said he doesn’t think the U.S. is at the point where they will be providing arms to Ukraine, but passing a set of “crippling” sanctions would send a strong message to Mr. Putin and that a long-term goal should be to help rebuild Ukraine’s military.

“I mean, there’s no doubt that if you cut off Russian gas to Europe, it will hurt,” he said. “There’s no doubt that if you freeze Russian assets in places like Germany and Great Britain, it will hurt them. But this is a threat to the territorial integrity of Europe. Who knows who’s next? It was laughable five years ago to think that Russia would march on Ukraine. Five years from now, it may be a NATO country that’s in jeopardy.”

SEE ALSO: Crimeans vote to leave Ukraine, join Russia

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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