arw4It could be seen as saber rattling, fear-mongering or an astute prediction by a man with intimate knowledge of Ukrainian-Russian history, but Leonid Kravchuk is adamant that Russian President Vladimir Putin has strayed into potentially cataclysmic territory, and that the current showdown in Crimea could escalate into a world war. In an interview with International Business Times, Kravchuk, who led Ukraine to independence in 1991 and became its first president, claimed there are already 18,000 Russian soldiers in his country and that a full-scale Russian invasion would cause Western powers – including NATO – to engage them militarily. Sitting in his spacious office in Kiev, surrounded by decades’ worth of Ukrainian mementoes and exquisite amber handicrafts as a motley crew of self-styled defenders awaits in nearby Maidan Square, Kravchuk said he sees disturbing parallels between the current crisis and the outbreak of World War II, when he was a 5-year-old boy whose family lived in the village of Velykyi Zhytyn. MORE