Washington (CNN) – Attacks on police stations and government buildings in eastern Ukraine bear “telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement,” a top U.S. administration official said on Sunday, adding it was becoming more clear Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to expand his reach into the country.
Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said the latest attacks, in the city of Slaviansk, were “professional” and “coordinated” - similar to Russia’s incursion into the Crimean Peninsula last month.
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“There’s nothing grassroots-seeming about it,” Power said on ABC’s “This Week,” noting the latest action “gives credence” to the notion that Putin wants control over eastern Ukraine.
U.S. officials have accused Putin of inciting unrest in the region as a pretext for sending his forces further into Ukraine. For weeks, the Obama administration has been anxiously monitoring activity on the Russia-Ukraine border, where tens of thousands of Russian troops have been massing.
The United States doesn’t want a repeat of what happened last month in Crimea, when Russian troops moved into the region after Putin alleged ethnic Russian residents of that Ukrainian territory were being persecuted.
On Saturday, the White House announced Vice President Joe Biden would visit Kiev later this month to meet with leaders and demonstrate U.S. support for the interim government there.
Sunday, Power warned additional economic sanctions could come if Russian interference in eastern Ukraine continues. She contended that sanctions already in place against Russian officials and banks had dented the country’s economy.