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'Only the West can solve Ukraine crisis,' says Putin

Despite ongoing tensions between Russia and the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country is "open to the world." He added, however, that only the West could "solve" the Ukraine crisis.

Speaking on Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Putin told attendees that Russia was "not the first" to start the crisis in Ukraine and blamed the US for "igniting it."

Once a political decision is found, there will be no weapons in eastern Ukraine," Putin said.

Ties between Russia and the West have been strained by the crisis in Ukraine since early 2014, following the annexation of Crimea. The relationship between Moscow and Washington is at its worst level since the end of the Cold War.

Hopes for Iran nuclear deal

Putin on Friday criticized the United States for always wanting to "impose its own standards and decisions, without taking into account what Russia's interests are.

"They think they know better what we need - let us decide for ourselves," he said.

Ukraine

Ukraine troops and pro-Russian separatists have been locked in conflict since the spring of 2014

Despite his criticism, Putin said both Russia and the United States still want to work against common threats, including terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against infectious diseases and global economic issues.

He also told the forum that he hoped International negotiators would soon reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Regarding the situation in Syria, however, Putin said Russia's position remains loyal to Syrian President Bahsar al-Assad, adding that Russia is concerned that the conflict there could develop into a similar scenario as in Libya.

Economic cooperation

Turning to economics, Putin said was confident Moscow's cooperation with the West would continue and that the Kremlin was committed to ensuring a "transparent and predictable economy" for investors.

"Our active cooperation with new centers of global growth in no case means that we intend to pay less attention to our dialogue with our traditional Western partners."

Russia-Greece collaboration

Putin's speech on Friday came as Russian and Greek energy ministers inked a deal to collaborate on the Turkish Stream pipeline. The partnership looks set to bring the two countries closer together as they both drift away from their European neighbors.

Pipeline

The Russian-Greek Turkstream deal looks set to bring the countries closer together

"This is the start of a large investment project in Greece that is beneficial to the country's economy," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said at the signing ceremony, which took place on the sidelines of Friday's economic Forum.

'Inner strength' to recover

Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine have crippled the Russian economy over the last year, and producers are scrambling to find alternative ways to deliver energy to the vital European market without going through their Ukrainian neighbor.

Speaking optimistically on Friday, however, Putin said at the SPIEF summit that Russia has a "sufficient supply of inner strength" to overcome its economic problems.

"The global crisis that was predicted for Russia has not happened," Putin said. "We have stabilized the situation, erased the negative swings, the negative fluctuations on the market and are going confidently through this period of difficulties."

ksb/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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