PUTIN STRONGLY WARNS THE WEST TO STOP PUSHING THEIR DEMOCRATIC
VIEWS ON OTHER COUNTRIES
DEC 6 2004
RUSSIA AND BABYLON ARE TALKING VERY STERN TOWARDS EACH OTHER AND NO ONE IS BACKING DOWN .
WE CAN SEE AN INCREASE IN HOSTILITIES BETWEEN THE BEAR AND BABYLON .
President Vladimir Putin said Russia was willing to work with whoever is elected in Ukraine's new presidential runoff, but strongly warned the West on Monday not to try to force its vision of democracy on other nations.
In his first public comments since the Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled the second-round presidential election was fraudulent and ordered a revote, Putin said countries were welcome to help mediate Ukraine's crisis, but should not meddle.
"Only the people of any country and this includes Ukraine in the full sense can decide their fate," Putin told reporters after meeting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
"One can play the role of a mediator, but one must not meddle and apply pressure," Putin said in a tacit reference to Western countries, which have been taking part in negotiations to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
On the eve of the Supreme Court's ruling Friday, Putin had ridiculed Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's call for a repeat of the bitterly disputed runoff again staking his position clearly on the side of Yushchenko's rival for office, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
Some Western countries have issued veiled criticism of Russia for what they contend was meddling in Ukrainian politics. Last week, President Bush said any new election in Ukraine should be free from outside interference in remarks apparently directed at Russia.
Putin left open how Russia will react to the repeat runoff, scheduled for Dec. 26.
But he said: "Of course we will ... accept the will of any nation in the former Soviet space, and will work with any elected leader."
The comment suggested Russia could accept the runoff result, but his criticism of changing laws and his past congratulations of Yanukovych as the winner left it unclear whether the Kremlin considers the new vote will reflect the will of Ukraine's deeply divided people.
Putin rejected Western accusations, saying Russia acted "absolutely correctly" in disputes throughout the former Soviet Union. He suggested forces in the West were seeking to create new divisions in Europe for their political purposes.
"I don't want, as in Germany, for us to divide Europe into Westerners and Easterners, into first-class and second-class people, where the first-class people have the opportunity to live by stable, democratic laws and the second category of people are those with, to speak metaphorically, dark political skin," Putin said.
He said the second-class people would be subjected to "a nice but stern man in a helmet who will show them under what political understanding they must live. And if, God forbid, the ungrateful foreigner resists, he will be punished with bombs and missiles, as it was in Belgrade."
"This I consider completely unacceptable."
Russia vehemently objected to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Russia's ally, which badly damaged Russia's relations with NATO and particularly the United States. Resentment persists over the assault, which ended Serbian forces' crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Putin delivered his comments as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and other mediators headed to Kiev for new talks with Ukrainian leaders.
In Brussels, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the 25-nation bloc was not seeking to create new divisions over Ukraine.
"We are not meddling in Ukraine; OSCE observers were invited in," she said, referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an election-monitoring agency.
Putin suggested voters in Ukraine were now under pressure to support the pro-Yushchenko opposition, which has put hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets and has won the support of many Western countries and organizations.
"Of course, it is completely unacceptable for threats to be addressed to people that leave them with no choice, when one of the political leaders says that 'whatever happens, whatever the result of elections, we will take power including by force,'" Putin said. "This is not just pressure, it is scaring people."
The Ukrainian opposition warned repeatedly before the court ruling that they were prepared to take "immediate adequate actions" if the government tried to drag out the political crisis an apparent hint at more radical measures.
Since the court ruling, Yushchenko has called supporters not to leave their demonstration in Kiev's Independence Square.
In an interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph, he spoke more forcefully.
"If the old regime tries to interfere in any way and tries to defy the will of the people and of parliament, we will simply storm our way into the Cabinet office. This is what the people expect," Yushchenko was quoted as saying.
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