CHICAGO (CBS) — After returning from a visit to Ukraine, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) said the smallest spark could push the nation into war with Russia.

“To avoid war, you need to send every diplomatic message you can. This was important a trip as I have ever been on,” Quigley said.

WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports the congressman was in Ukraine for three days, as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation, to learn more about what’s going on in the homeland of many people in his North Side district.

“It also sent a very strong message – obviously, with the foreign minister of Russia’s reaction – that we care about Ukraine. So we weren’t just messaging to my constituents, or the people of Ukraine, we were messaging to Mr. Putin that this matters,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of plotting to seize control of Ukraine, a statement Quigley chalked up to bluster.

Quigley encouraged the Obama administration to stay the course with sanctions against Russia for its military actions in Ukraine.

Russian forces have seized Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin fled the nation amid mass protests against him, and pro-Western leaders took power in Ukraine in February.

Quigley compared Ukraine to a tinderbox, saying any incidents in the eastern part of the country could spark war.

He visited Maidan during his trip, and visited soldiers and civilians who are hopeful, but cautious for a peaceful resolution.

“They’re willing to fight the Russian army in the middle of Kiev, so it’s an extraordinarily determined public. They’re both fearful and optimistic,” Quigley said.

The congressman urged the White House not to overreact to Russian accusations about Western interference.

He said sanctions against Russia have been working, and more could slow Putin’s quest to overtake Ukraine as part of an effort to restore the Soviet Union.

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