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MOSCOW, June 04. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is ready for dialogue with his US counterpart Barack Obama.
“As regards relations with Obama, I have no grounds to believe he does not want to communicate with the Russian president at all, but, eventually, it’s his choice,” Putin said in an interview with French media.
“I am always ready for dialogue and think dialogue is the best way to build bridges,” the Russian president said, adding that he and Obama have called one another and spoken by phone.
“I am ready to communicate with all my partners, including President Obama,” Putin said.
Moscow sees the U.S. attempts to put the West into an opposition to Russia but the fact is the efforts to encircle Russia are totally impractical in the world of nowadays, Russian President said.
Russia is the world’s largest country and one would find it extremely difficult to encircle it. “Also, the world is changing so fast that encirclement of this kind is impossible even on the virtual sense,” Putin said.
“Quite naturally, we see the attempts by the U.S. Administration to put pressure on its allies by misusing its explicit positions of leadership in the Western community so as to wield influence on Russia’s policy,” he said.
“But Russia will conduct its policy proceeding from its national interests only,” Putin said. “We’ll definitely take account of our partners’ opinions but will be guided solely by the interests of the Russian people,” Putin said.
"Problems between countries have always existed, especially between such large countries as Russia and the United States," he said.
"There have always been problems, but I do not think they should be driven to extreme," he said. "In any case, this not our choice."
Answering a French reporter's question about the consequences of chilling relations between Russia and the Western states, Putin expressed the hope that "we are not entering a new phase of some 'Cold War'.
Some Russian and Crimean officials and companies have been subjected to sanctions by Western nations, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Crimea’s incorporation by Russia.
The West led by the United States has repeatedly threatened Russia with further penalties, including economic ones, for its position on Ukraine (incorporation of Crimea and what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s Southeast).
Russia has rejected the threats of broader sanctions, saying the language of punitive measures is counterproductive and will have a boomerang effect on Western countries.
Russian President has asked U.S. President Barack Obama to provide evidence of Russia’s military presence in Ukraine if he has such. “Let them present this evidence,” Putin said in an interview with French media, re-confirming that Russia had no troops in Ukraine.
“We and the whole world saw how the U.S. secretary of state presented evidence of weapons of mass destruction presence in Iraq by waving a test tube with some powder at the United Nations Security Council,” Putin recalled.
"The U.S. troops ultimately entered Iraq. They hang Saddam Hussein and then it turned out that there had never been weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You know, one can say anything but it’s a totally different thing to provide proof,” President Putin said.
“There are no troops or Russian military instructors in southeast Ukraine. They have never been there,” Putin emphasized.
Putin stressed Russia had no intention to incorporate Ukraine or destabilize the internal situation in that country. “We have never been engaged in that sort of activity,” he said.
“But we want to retool our army and fleet on a modern high-tech basis, cut quantity and improve quality. We have an entire program, it did not emerge yesterday, it’s a retooling program, and it’s not related to any events in Ukraine. This is scheduled work, and we will do it,” he said.
Putin drew French journalists’ attention to the fact that the US military budget “exceeds the military budgets of all world countries”.
“So who is pursuing an aggressive policy?” he asked rhetorically.
Putin said it is the United States that is pursuing “the most aggressive, the toughest policy in defense of its own interests”.
“There are practically no Russian troops abroad, but American troops are everywhere abroad, American military bases are deployed around the world, and they take part everywhere in determining the fates of other peoples while being situated thousands of kilometers from their own border,” the Russian president said.
In this connection, he said, it is strange on the part of the United States to blame Russia for “violating something”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the French media that Ukraine’s newly-elected President Pyotr Poroshenko could still use a chance to stop the punitive operation in the southeast of Ukraine and start a dialogue with the people living in Ukraine’s regions.
“I believe that Mr. Poroshenko has a unique chance: his hands are not stained with blood and he can stop this punitive operation and start a direct dialogue with his citizens in the east and south of his country,” Putin told the French media.
“The Ukrainian authorities need to establish a dialogue with their own people not by means of weapons, tanks, planes or helicopters but through negotiations,” the Russian president repeated.
Asked to comment on Russia’s future relations with Kiev, Putin reiterated that Russia respected the Ukrainian people’s choice. A journalist asked Putin whether he would work with Poroshenko if he remained under a strong U.S. influence. “He can be under anybody’s influence,” Putin corrected the journalist.
“People voted for him and it is his choice how to build his policy. If he wants to stay under anybody’s strong influence, so be it,” the Russian leader added.
The journalists also asked whether Putin was planning to meet Poroshenko at the D-Day commemorations in Normandy on June 6.
“I gladly accept this invitation (by Francois Hollande to attend the celebrations) and I am very grateful to the French president for his gesture. But there will be other guests there as well. I am not planning to run away from anybody and I will certainly talk to all the guests,” Putin stressed.
“We recognize the sovereignty and moreover we would on the contrary very much like Ukraine to feel that it is a sovereign state, because entering any military blocs, any such tough integration associations means the loss of a certain part of sovereignty,” the Russian leader said.
Putin said that “if the country chooses such a path and wants to lose part of its sovereignty, it’s up to itself”.
“But when we speak of Ukraine and military blocs, we are of course worried because if Ukraine, say, joins NATO, military infrastructure is coming close to the Russian borders, and we can’t be indifferent to that,” he stressed.
Putin called on journalists to understand where the source of the Ukrainian crisis was.
“No political forces may be led to power through an armed anti-constitutional coup in any state, especially on the post-Soviet space, where state structures have not been formed to the full,” the Russian president said.
After a coup occurred in Ukraine in February and President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave for security reasons, the country has been in turmoil. In March, the Crimean Peninsula refused to obey the coup-imposed Ukrainian leaders and seceded from Ukraine after a referendum, reunifying with Russia after 60 years as part of Ukraine.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
After Crimea’s incorporation by Russia, massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities in Kiev erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories. Demonstrators in southeastern regions, who have been demanding the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings.
Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against pro-federalization activists that has already killed dozens of people, including civilians.
Putin has repeatedly dismissed Western claims that Russia could in any way be involved in protests in Ukraine's Southeast.
Trustworthy relations between the leaders of Russia and France have taken shape, Russian President said in an interview with the French media.
“I don’t see any grounds to think otherwise because we have fair and very good interstate relations and we are to do very much yet in what concerns the expansion of economic ties,” he said.
He believes that the Presidents of Russia and France “speak the same language”. “We understand each other perfectly well even though we communicate with each other through interpreters,” he said.
As he mentioned the level of sovereignty, he said: “Any country entering one or another defense union voluntarily submits a part of its sovereignty to supra-national agencies.”
“That’s totally unacceptable for Russia but if you take other countries, that’s not our business because their governments have a free hand to decide how they should act and what they should do,” Putin said.
In the light of it, he recalled the traditions of Gaullism and General Charles de Gaulle who defended French sovereignty. “I think this deserves respect,” he said.
Putin also recalled President Francois Mitterrand “who spoke about a European confederation - the one embracing Russia, by the way.”
“I think nothing has been lost yet if you take Europe’s future,” he said.