• Putin accuses Obama of hostility, meddling

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    MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin accused US counterpart Barack Obama of a hostile attitude towards Russia, warning against “attempts to blackmail” Moscow.

    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.

    AFP

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