“I keep coming back to the fact that there is a connection between the Syrian crisis and what is happening in Ukraine,” he told Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta in an interview, excerpts of which were published on Friday.

“Firstly because both countries are important for Russia, and secondly because the goal in both cases is to weaken Russia and create a puppet state.”

The United States and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its role in the crisis in Ukraine.