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Friday, May 26, 2006

Putin Fails Miserably at Sochi Conference

The Moscow Times reports:

SOCHI, Southern Russia -- President Vladimir Putin and European Union leaders failed to secure an agreement on energy policy at a meeting in Sochi on Thursday in the run-up to the G8's summit in St. Petersburg.

Putin accused European leaders of double standards, maintaining that the EU complained about Gazprom's gas-export monopoly but blocked Russian efforts to tap European energy markets.

The Sochi meeting came at the same time that Russian-U.S. relations have also been strained, with the White House upset with Russia's energy policy, position on Iran's uranium-enrichment program and human-rights record.

"If our European partners expect that we will let them into the holy of holies of our economy -- the energy sector -- and let them in as they would like to be admitted, then we expect reciprocal steps in the most crucial and important areas for our development," the president said.

Putin sounded an optimistic note, too. "The most important thing is that we have a desire to agree on this issue, and we will reach an agreement."

And, for the first time, Putin responded directly to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that Russia is backtracking on democracy, saying Russia was simply pursuing its national interests.

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