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West meddling in former Soviet states, says Putin

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW, DEC. 23. THE Russian President, Vladimir Putin, accused the West of meddling in the affairs of former Soviet States and practising double standards to isolate Russia.

In his most scathing attack on the United States and other Western nations yet, Mr. Putin said he was deeply worried by their attempts to "set up a mechanism of permanent revolutions" in the former Soviet Union. In a clear reference to the West-fomented "orange revolution" in Ukraine he said such policies "may plunge post-Soviet republics into endless conflicts."

Russia has accused the West of orchestrating massive street protests in Ukraine last month which led to the cancellation of the presidential election victory by a pro-Moscow candidate.

Speaking at a marathon three-hour press-conference in the Kremlin today the Russian leader hit out at the West's "double standards" in international politics. He said it was the height of hypocrisy to criticise Russia for pursuing its interests in the former Soviet Union, while closing eyes to abuses of democracy elsewhere.

`Complete nonsense'

The Russian leader said it was "complete nonsense" to accuse Moscow of trying to "devour" its neighbours in the former Soviet Union and voiced concern about "a desire to isolate the Russian Federation."

Mr. Putin slammed as a "mockery of common sense" the European Union's refusal to support a power-sharing arrangement for Russians in Latvia, even though Russian make up 40 per cent of Latvia's population, while calling for a proportionate representation of 20-percent Albanians in Macedonia.

He described U.S. plans to hold parliamentary elections in Iraq "under conditions of total occupation" next month as a "farce," and said that elections in Afghanistan and Kosovo, hailed by the West as a triumph of democracy, were marred by massive abuses.

Mr. Putin said truckloads of filled ballot papers were hauled from Pakistan to Afghanistan and more than 200,000 Serbs were prevented from voting in the Kosovo poll.

Russia's President ridiculed the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for planning to monitor elections in Iraq from the territory of Jordan, while refusing to send observers to Chechnya for local presidential elections earlier this year.

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