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Putin accuses US of 'blackmail'

Ahead of high-level talks with European leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in his nation's affairs. Putin warned the US against attempts to 'blackmail' Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned United States President Barack Obama against "attempts to blackmail" Moscow, while accusing the American President of harboring a hostile attitude toward Russia.

Putin took issue with Obama's comments at the United Nations last month, where the US leader listed Russian "aggression" in eastern Ukraine as a top threat to global peace, alongside "Islamic State" jihadists and the Ebola outbreak in West 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 on Wednesday.

The Russian President's comments come a day before he is scheduled to hold high-level talks with EU leaders at a summit in Milan, Italy. Before the summit, Putin will make a brief stopover in Serbia where he will be the guest of honor at a military parade commemorating the Red Army's liberation of Belgrade from the Nazis 70 years ago.

Putin accused the United States of meddling in Russia's affairs, blaming Washington for in Putin's view, provoking a "civil war" in Ukraine.

"What has been happening since the start of the year is even more dispiriting," Putin said. "Washington actively supported the Maidan (protests) and began to blame Russia for provoking a crisis when its protégés in Kyiv through their rabid nationalism turned a significant part of Ukraine against it and threw the country into civil war."

The situation in Ukraine is expected to dominate the meetings as Putin is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Milan. On Friday, the Russian President will have a breakfast meeting with the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Ukraine and the European Union that will focus on Ukraine.

Russia's relations with the West have been on ice ever since Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March. Bitter fighting broke out shortly afterward between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian separatists. The West has accused Moscow of sending regular Russian army soldiers into Ukraine to support separatist fighters, a claim Putin denies.

A shaky ceasefire has been holding in eastern Ukraine since September 5. Thus far over 3600 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

bw/crh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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