Upton: Putin trying to ‘restore Russia of old’

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and the Chief of Gen. Ivan Buvaltsev, right, watch a military exercise near St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, March 3, 2014. Putin has sought and quickly got the Russian parliament's permission to use the Russian military in Ukraine. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan congressional representatives Tuesday expressed concern about the situation in Crimea and the motivations of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tensions are escalating in the region, which has an ethnically Russian majority and earlier this week voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Pro-Russian people celebrate in Lenin Square, in Simferopol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
(Pro-Russian people celebrate in Lenin Square, in Simferopol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 16, 2014. AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Reports say a Ukrainian serviceman and member of a local self-defense brigade were shot and killed at a Ukrainian military facility in the capital of Crimea.

Tuesday, Putin signed an agreement to annex Crimea. Ukraine, which recently ousted is president because of his decision to align more closely with Russia, responded by authorizing use of force to defend troops.

Inside woodtv.com: Putin signs treaty to add Crimea to map of Russia

“Lets face it, what he (Putin) wants to do is to really restore the luster of the Russia of old. And it has not been helpful in Syria, it has not been helpful in the Middle East, and obviously he has now not been helpful in Eastern Europe as we have seen this advance move westward,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) said.

So is this the biggest geopolitical crisis the world has seen since the Cold War?

“That’s not clear to me yet,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) said. “I would like to see how things play out over time. But we have to be very careful again about how we get ourselves involved. There are some in Congress who have called for military involvement — whether it means providing military equipment to the Ukrainians or other types of support — and I think it is premature to do that.”

The United States and the European Union have announced asset freezes and further sanctions against Russian. France said Tuesday that the Group of Eight world powers has suspended Russia’s participation in the group.

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