A prominent political ally and advisor to Vladimir Putin has proposed splitting up Ukraine along the lines of an historical pact agreed between the Nazis and Soviet Union.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, widely regarded as a mouthpiece for the Russian president, proposed a redrawing of the borders of western Ukraine - which would involve regions being incorporated into the territories of Poland, Romania and Hungary.
He appeared to have written the letter in the days after Russia itself annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine last week, and suggested further referendums could be held to see further territory break away from Kiev.
Zhirinovsky wrote: “It's never too late to correct historical errors.”
Latest: Russia scathing on G8 suspension
The politician is the deputy speaker of the Duma, and his nationalist Liberal Democratic party largely backs President Vladimir Putin in the Russian parliament.
Sergei Sobolev, head of Ukraine's largest parliamentary faction, the Fatherland party, called him a “provocateur”.
“But Zhirinovsky often is the voice of Putin,” he added.
Zhirinovsky's letter, seen by Reuters, suggested Poland, Hungary and Romania, who are now in the European Union, might wish to take back regions which he said were in the past their territories.
Crimea referendum and independence
Crimea referendum and independence
1/14 Crimea Referendum
A man shows his shirt with the Russian emblem as he celebrates the results of the Crimean referendum at the Lenin Square in Simferopol
2/14 Crimea Referendum
An elderly retired Soviet Navy officer and his wife take a walk in Sevastopol the morning after the referendum
3/14 Crimea Referendum
A man plays accordion as people dance during celebrations in Sevastopol
4/14 Crimea Referendum
People wave Russian flags as fireworks explode in the sky over Sevastopol following the announcement of the result of the referendum
5/14 Crimea Referendum
A member of a Ukrainian "Maidan" self-defense battalion takes part in training to qualify for service in the newly-created National Guard.
6/14 Crimea Referendum
Pro-Russian protesters hold a Russian, Crimean and Soviet flags during their rally at Lenin Square in Simferopol, Ukraine
7/14 Crimea Referendum
A member of the Crimean election commission waits for voters at the polling station in Belogorsk near Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
8/14 Crimea Referendum
Polling stations opened in Crimea for a referendum about whether the Ukrainian Black Sea region should join Russia. The vote has been widely condemned by Western governments, who call it illegal and have announced sanctions against Russia if it goes ahead. Thousands of unmarked forces, believed to be Russian, have appeared in Crimea after local Moscow-backed authorities asked Russia for protection against 'extremists' in the new Ukrainian leadership
9/14 Crimea Referendum
A lettering on the facade of the Council of Ministers building reads 'Spring in Crimea' in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
10/14 Crimea Referendum
People wave Crimean flags at Lenin square in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
11/14 Crimea Referendum
A poster in Crimea presents a stark choice - Nazism, or Russia - to voters ahead of the referendum
12/14 Crimea Referendum
Protesters against Ukraine’s referendum gather in Simferopol
13/14 Crimea Referendum
Action stations: Preparations for today’s referendum in Simferopol, where Crimea will vote to become part of Russia
14/14 Crimea Referendum
Cossacks guard the regional parliament building in Simferopol during the Crimean referendum
The regions were incorporated into Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two and featured in a secret annex of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact under which the Soviet and Nazi German foreign ministers carved up the area.
It was not clear whether the letter was serious or a publicity stunt. But it follows a crisis in relations between Moscow and Kiev since the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was ousted as Ukraine's president last month.
Zhirinovsky proposed Ukraine's Chernivtsi, Zakarpattia, Volyn, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Rovensky regions, together with Poland, Romania and Hungary hold referendums on whether the regions should break away from Ukraine.
Romania might wish to have Chernivtsi, Hungary the Zakarpattia region, and Poland the rest, he said.
is 'reminiscent of the 1930s'
threatens to cut gas supplies to Europe
is lost, but there is a deal waiting to be done
The Europe they hate
no longer exists
The proposal would allow central Ukraine to be free of “ unnecessary tensions” and the referendums would “bring prosperity and tranquillity to the Ukrainian native land,” the letter said.
Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski dismissed the letter as a “complete oddity” and regretted some Russians “ still think in terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.”
Alexandr Efremov, head of the parliamentary faction Party of Regions, Ukraine's former ruling party, said he did not support Zhirinovsky's proposal.
“Just as we have some intemperate people, Russia has some of them as well,” Efremov said at a briefing. “I do not support this (Zhirinovsky's) approach.”
Ukraine's government spokeswoman declined to comment.
Additional reporting by agenciesReuse content