Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to recreate the Soviet Union, an aspiration that also threatens Central and Eastern Europe, Ukraine’s former prime minister said.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s remarks, made in an interview with Current Time, were some of the most extensive comments she’s made since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24..

“Vladimir Putin deeply believes that he has a historic mission to recreate the Soviet Union,” she said in the interview published on April 1. “To return European countries to some past century with all those aspects of prison that were part of the Soviet Union.”

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (file photo)
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

“And his sense of his ‘historic mission’ is so deep that he is ready to achieve this not only politically, but also economically, using the energy tools that he has,” she said.

Now a lawmaker in parliament and the head of an opposition political party, Tymoshenko is a fiery and sometimes divisive figure in Ukrainian politics. She served as prime minister twice, under President Viktor Yushchenko, before challenging Viktor Yanukovych for the presidency in 2010.

She was jailed during the Yanukovych presidency for nearly 2 1/2 years until the February 2014 Maidan revolution, which culminated in violent street clashes and in Yanukovych fleeing Ukraine for Russia.