Answering a question whether Russia has intentions to return Crimea, he told a  congressional panel on Monday, March 20: "They have publicly indicated that they will not."

According to VOA, when asked why Russia even cares about Ukraine, he said: "I'm sure they view this is a primary national interest for them. Some of the immediate periphery of the Russian state."

Read alsoUkraine bans European politicians' entry as they visit occupied CrimeaAnswering a question if Russia sees it as part of their broader objective to influence and impact Ukraine's desire for self-determination, he confirmed: "Yes, that's part of it."

UNIAN memo. Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014 after its troops had occupied the peninsula. An illegal referendum was held for Crimeans to decide on accession to Russia. De-facto Crimean authorities reported that allegedly 96.77% of the Crimean population had voted for joining Russia. On March 18, 2014, the so-called agreement on the accession of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Russia was signed in the Kremlin. The West did not recognize the annexation in response to which sanctions against Russia were introduced. Ukraine's parliament voted to designate February 20, 2014, as the official date when the temporary occupation of Crimea began.