Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made fresh accusations of US involvement in the Georgia conflict and rejected suggestions Moscow could target Ukraine next, in an interview aired yesterday.
The powerful former Kremlin leader urged the EU to refrain from imposing sanctions against Russia when it meets for an emergency summit tomorrow.
A transcript of the interview to Germany’s ARD television was released by the Russian government yesterday and excerpts were broadcast on Russian TV.
Putin spoke after Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia on Friday, three days after Moscow formally recognized the independence of two Georgian secessionist regions.
“We know there were many US advisers there,” Putin said, reiterating remarks he had made in a previous interview to CNN.
“But these instructors, teachers in a general sense, personnel who trained others to work on the supplied military equipment, are supposed to be in training centers and where were they? In the military operations zone,” he said.
“Why did the senior US leadership allow their citizens to be present there when they had no right to be in the security zone? And if they allowed it, I begin to suspect that it was done intentionally to organize a small victorious war. And if that failed, they wanted to create an enemy out of Russia and unite voters around one of the presidential candidates. Of course, a ruling party candidate, because it is only the ruling party that has this kind of resource,” he said.
Putin also rejected suggestions from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that Russia could have designs on other former Soviet republics — specifically Ukraine — after sending troops deep inside Georgia this month.
“We have long ago recognized the borders of modern-day Ukraine,” he said.
EU leaders want to send the message that they disapprove of Russia’s actions in Georgia but the French EU presidency has made clear they will not opt for sanctions.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez backed Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Friday, making Venezuela only the second country to support Moscow’s stance.
Russia’s neighbor and close ally, Belarus, has expressed similar support for Moscow’s decision to back the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after a brief war between Russia and Georgia this month.
“Russia has recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We support Russia. Russia is right and is defending its interests,” Chavez said during a televised speech from an oil field along the Orinoco Oil Belt.
He stopped short of saying Venezuela recognized the regions.