[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/12/art.mccain.country.jpg caption="McCain sharpened his criticism of Putin Tuesday."]
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (CNN) - John McCain is turning up the heat on Moscow, and accusing Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of wanting to “restore the old Russian empire.”
McCain’s comments came in an interview with Harrisburg public radio WITF, in which he hammered Putin for continuing to wield power since leaving the presidency behind earlier this year and installing his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt who is still by far the most powerful and influential person in Russia,” McCain said, arguing that Putin’s “personal control” of the military “indicates his position of power.”
“Of course we have to deal with Russia and we deal with Putin,” McCain said. “But it has to be on a very realistic basis. And not one that there’s any illusions about his ambitions.”
Watch: McCain condemns Russia
He then accused Putin of wanting to restore Russia to the days of czardom, when a monarchy exerted broad control over parts of Asia and eastern Europe.
“I think it’s very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian Empire,” he said. “Not the Soviet Union, but the Russian Empire.”