Putin accuses Obama of hostility, meddling16 october 2014, 15:01
President Vladimir Putin accused US counterpart Barack Obama of a hostile attitude towards Russia, warning against "attempts to blackmail" Moscow, AFP reports.
Speaking ahead of his visit to EU aspirant Serbia on Thursday and key talks with EU leaders on Friday, Putin minced no words, demanding that Washington take Moscow's interests into account.
In some of his most combative comments on US-Russia ties yet, the Kremlin strongman took issue with Obama's speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month, when he listed "Russia's aggression" in eastern Ukraine among top global threats, along with Islamic State jihadists and the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
"Together with the limits introduced against entire sectors of our economy it is hard to call such approach anything but hostile," Putin told the Serbian daily Politika.
"We are hoping that our partners will understand the recklessness of attempts to blackmail Russia, (and) remember what discord between large nuclear powers can do to strategic stability," Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin late Wednesday.
Putin also accused Washington of meddling in his country's affairs, charging that the United States provoked a crisis in Ukraine and then shifted the blame onto Russia.
"What has been happening since the start of the year is even more dispiriting," Putin said in commments which resonated with Cold War-style rhetoric.
"Washington actively supported the Maidan (protests) and began to blame Russia for provoking a crisis when its proteges in Kiev through their rabid nationalism turned a significant part of Ukraine against it and threw the country into civil war."
Putin, who is set to meet Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in Milan on Friday, called on Kiev to start nationwide dialogue and address the issue of "constitutional makeup" to put the conflict to rest.
"A real opportunity has appeared to halt military confrontation, essentially civil war," he said.
"It is necessary to as soon as possible start genuine internal Ukrainian dialogue with the participation of representatives of all regions, all political forces," Putin said in an apparent reference to Kremlin-backed separatists.
Putin on Sunday called back 17,600 soldiers from the Ukrainian border, in what many interpreted as a gesture aimed at persuading the West to ease punitive sancions.
'Dialogue based on equality'
Putin reiterated that Moscow was ready to mend fences with Washington but only if its interests are genuinely taken into account.
"We are ready to develop constructive dialogue based on principles of equality and taking each other's interests into account in earnest."
"Our partners should clearly realise that attempts to put pressure on Russia through unilateral illegitimate limiting steps do not bring a resolution (of the Ukraine crisis) closer but only complicate dialogue," he said, referring to the Western sanctions.
Russia is at loggerheads with the West after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March and its support for separatist fighters in the former Soviet country's eastern belt.
Kiev and the West have accused the Kremlin of sending regular troops into Ukraine to prop up separatists battling against Kiev authorities. Moscow has denied the claim.
Putin's predecessor at the Kremlin, Dmitry Medvedev spearheaded a "re-set" in ties with Washington but those ties have quickly unravelled since Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.
Russia is now facing its deepest period of international isolation since the end of the Cold War over its stance on Ukraine, with Western sanctions dealing a blow to its already stuttering economy.
Putin reiterated that Western sanctions would backfire, adding that US and EU companies would sustain "reputational damage" because of them.
"At the same time other countries will thoroughly think about just how reasonable it is to entrust their funds to the American banking system and increase dependence on economic cooperation with the United States," he said.
Putin also called on Brussels to give its backing to the controversial South Stream gas pipeline project.
"It is necessary to unblock the situation around the South Stream," he told Politika.
"Everyone would win from this: both Russia and European consumers - including Serbia."
EU member Bulgaria has suspended work on building its section of the multi-billion-euro project following pressure from the EU and the United States.