VIENNA - Russian President Vladimir Putin is repeating history by acting in Crimea much like Adolf Hitler did in central and eastern Europe in the late 1930s, a former Czech foreign minister said in an interview Monday.
"What's happening in Ukraine is history repeating itself," Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview with Austrian daily Osterreich.
"Putin is acting along the same principle as Adolf Hitler" did during his invasions of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1938 and 1939, he said.
Putin asked Russia's parliament on Saturday to allow him to send troops to Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea and elsewhere in southeastern regions of the ex-Soviet country, which has ancient historical and cultural ties to Moscow.
"Since he wanted to invade Crimea, he needed a pretext and said that his compatriots were oppressed," the 76-year-old Schwarzenberg said, adding that Russians in Crimea, where they are a majority, were not facing any discrimination.
"When Hitler wanted to annex Austria, he said that Germans there were oppressed," he said.
Europe should "clearly tell him that this is a violation of law that will not pass," said Schwarzenberg, who served as Czech foreign minister from 2007-2009 and 2010-2013.
Hitler annexed then Czechoslovakia's northern and western regions in 1938 under the pretext of protecting the ethnic German population there. The following year his forces occupied the rest of the country.
Austria was annexed into the Third Reich in March 1938.