tells Obama he wants better ties, equal treatment
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[July 07, 2014]
By Gabriela Baczynska
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir
Putin called for an improvement in ties between Russia and the United
States on Friday in an Independence Day message to Barack Obama, urging
Washington to treat Moscow as an equal partner.
Relations between the two presidents and countries are at a low
ebb following disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria,
and over human rights, democracy and defence matters.
"The head of the Russian state expressed hope that ... ties between
the two countries will develop successfully on the basis of
pragmatism and equality despite difficulties and disagreements," the
Kremlin said in a statement, outlining a telegram sent to Obama on
the July 4 holiday.
"Vladimir Putin also highlighted that Russia and the United States,
as countries carrying exceptional responsibility for safeguarding
international stability and security, should cooperate not only in
the interests of their own nations but also the whole world."
The telegram underlined a message Putin has made central to his
third term as president - that Russia, like the United States a
veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, must be treated
as a world power and on an equal footing two decades after the fall
of the Soviet Union.
The Kremlin statement made no reference to sanctions imposed on
Moscow by Washington after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of
Crimea in March, or to other differences between the two former Cold
But the call for "pragmatism and equality" in relations suggested
Putin put the onus on Obama to improve ties.
The language was less upbeat than in last year's Independence Day
telegram, in which Putin expressed "certainty" that Moscow and
Washington would be able to work out solutions to various issues
"regardless of the fact that not all approaches of the sides
The telegram sent on July 4, 2012, at the height of the Syria
conflict but long before the Ukraine crisis, was also more positive,
referring to an improvement in preceding years and presenting an
optimistic outlook for the future.
DECLINE IN RELATIONS
Relations have deteriorated particularly since Russia annexed Crimea
following the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich as Ukrainian president.
He had spurned a trade pact with the European Union in favour of
better ties with Moscow.
Russia accused the United States of supporting protests against
Putin before his re-election in 2012 and Washington has accused
Moscow of suppression of his opponents and of gay rights.
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Putin reiterated complaints this week the United States was trying
to "contain" Russia, using a term from the Cold War era.
Other Russian officials have also taken a tough line this week,
deflecting Western accusations that Moscow did not do enough to
ensure pro-Russian separatists who have risen up in eastern Ukraine
stuck to a ceasefire last week.
"In fact, we are dealing with a new offensive type of weapon,"
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Kommersant newspaper in
a reference to the U.S. sanctions, which impose visa bans and asset
freezes on a number of Russian firms and officials.
Another senior official goaded the United States by challenging its
domination of world affairs.
"The hegemony of the U.S. on the world stage is over," Yevgeny
Lukyanov, deputy head of the Russian Security Council comprising
defence and security officials, told RIA news agency.
Personal relations between Obama and Putin appear cool as efforts
continue to end the violence in east Ukraine.
Putin is now weighing whether to engage more with Obama on Ukraine
or risk more sanctions that could undermine Russia's economy,
already on the verge of recession.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage and Andrew Roche)
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