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Russian President Putin says it's up to the West to help improve relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hopes that Moscow’s relations with the West would improve soon. He placed at lest part of the blame for the current tensions on the United States and its allies.

Speaking in an interview with state-run Rossiya television on Saturday, the Russian president said he hoped that relations between the Kremlin and the West would normalize by the end of this year.

"I believe there is nothing preventing us from improving relations and from normal cooperation," Putin said. "This does not depend on us. Or not on us only. This depends on our counterparts," the president added.

While Putin did not outline any specific measures that the West should take to improve relations, he did indicate that a perceived lack of respect was at the heart of the problem, accusing the West of treating Russia like a "guilty schoolboy."

Praise for NATO

Putin also used the interview to praise the Western military alliance, NATO, on its choice of former Norwegian Foreign Minister Jens Stoltenberg as its new secretary general

"We have very good relations. And this includes personal relations. He is a very serious, responsible person," Putin said.

"But let's see how he will develop relations in his new capacity," he cautioned.

Stoltenberg is to replace the current NATO boss, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on October 1.

Putin was speaking two days after top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union met in Geneva struck a deal aimed at reducing tensions in Ukraine. Among other things, it called for separatists in the east of Ukraine to leave government buildings that they have been occupying. However, many have refused to leave, demanding that Ukraine's interim government, which took power after pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country amid protests against his rule, step down first.

pfd/mz (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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