Putin: US provoked Georgia crisis to help Republicans
Vladimir Putin launched a fresh attack on the United States, saying US advisers were involved in the Georgian conflict and accusing the White House of provoking the crisis to help Republicans win the US election, Reuters reported.
Russia is fighting back against a storm of condemnation from the United States and European governments for sending troops into Georgia and recognizing its two breakaway regions as independent states.
Prime Minister Putin's comments, broadcast by German television station ARD on Friday, expanded on remarks in an interview with CNN shown on Thursday which the White House said were "patently false".
"We know there were a lot of US advisers (in Georgia), but instructors, teachers and personnel for military weapons should be on firing ranges and in the teaching centers - but where were they? They were in the zone of military operations.
"And that pushes one to the conclusion that the leadership of the United States knew about the action that was being prepared and moreover probably took part in it," Putin said.
"If the leadership of the United States had sanctioned that, then I have the suspicion that it was done specially to organise a small, victorious war," he said.
"And if it didn't work, then to create from Russia the appearance of an enemy and on that ground unite the electorate around one presidential candidate, of course the ruling party."
Putin did not name Republican candidate John McCain.
"In a significant way the crisis was provoked, including by our American friends in the course of the election struggle.
"This was the use of administrative resources in a deplorable way to provide advantage to one of the candidates, in the current case from the ruling party," said Putin, who stepped down as president in May after eight years in office.
The West is considering what steps to take against Russia, which has great leverage over the European Union as the supplier of much of its oil and gas. Putin warned European states they should stop taking orders from the White House.
"If European states want to serve the foreign policy interests of the USA, then, in my opinion, they will gain nothing from this," he said.
"A country - in the current case Russia - which can stand up for the honor and dignity of its citizens, defend their lives will not be isolated, despite the bloc-like thinking of our partners in Europe or in the United States.
"The world doesn't end with Europe or the United States."
Fighting broke out in Georgia, a US ally on Russia's border in the Caucasus, on Aug 7-8 when Georgian forces tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which is backed by Moscow.
Russian forces repelled the attack and advanced into Georgia proper. The Kremlin then recognized Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
The European Union is due to hold an emergency summit on Monday. But diplomats said EU nations were mostly reluctant to impose sanctions and had received signals from the Kremlin that it would retaliate.
"But I think any kind of reaction they would take to the EU would be in kind, like visa restrictions or a business contacts freeze," said one EU diplomat. "I don't think the retaliation would include the kind of things like restricting oil."
As well as energy supplies, Western policy-makers must weigh the fact that Russia's support is vital to maintaining pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
Russian oil companies and government officials denied a British newspaper report that they were preparing to restrict oil supplies in response to sanctions.
A senior diplomat for EU president France said sanctions would not be adopted at the summit, contradicting remarks on Thursday by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said they were among the options.
"The time to pass sanctions has certainly not come," the diplomat said.
Georgia is a key non-Russian route for oil from the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR said it expected next year to send up to 400,000 tonnes of crude to a Russian pipeline instead of the BP-led pipeline through Georgia, in part because of instability there.
Russian planes dropped bombs this month within 15 meters ( 50 feet) of the Georgian pipeline, witnesses told Reuters.
Tbilisi said it would cut diplomatic ties with Moscow. A Russian Foreign Ministry source told the RIA news agency that Moscow would close its embassy in Tbilisi.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made a surprise visit late on Friday to the flashpoint port of Poti, which Russian troops continue to patrol as part of a Moscow-imposed security zone condemned by the Tbilisi government and the West.
"They are occupiers here, they are occupiers all around Georgia," Saakashvili told reporters, referring to Russian troops who man checkpoints just outside the town.