Putin accuses US, NATO of triggering new round of arms race

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Moscow, Feb 8 (UNI) Talking tough, President Vladimir Putin today accused the US and NATO of triggering a new round of arms race, saying it was unfortunate and did not depend on Russia.

''It is already obvious that a new round of arms race has begun, which is unfortunate. It does not depend on us, it was not us who started it,'' Mr Putin said at a session of the State Council, which gathers ministers, regional governors and lawmakers.

''NATO itself is expanding, approaching to our borders. We withdrew our bases from Cuba and Vietnam. What did we get?'' he asked.

''New US bases in Romania, Bulgaria, and a new third missile defence region in Poland, where it is being built,'' Mr Putin added, stressing that Russia must not allow itself to be drawn into this new round of arms race.

Laying out his legacy three months before he is to step down, the President said there had been no ''constructive response'' to Russia's well-founded concerns over US plans to set up missile shield in Poland and Czech Republic.

''We are being forced to take retaliatory steps. Russia has and always will have a response to these new challenges,'' he said.

Attempts by Western countries to interfere in Russia's domestic affairs during the presidential election were unacceptable, he said, adding, ''Attempts of foreign interference in the course of political struggle in Russia are not only immoral, but also illegal.'' He said Russia needs international peace in order to resolve its strategic problems.

''To achieve our national goals we need a peaceful, positive international agenda. This is what we are going to strive for,'' he stated.

UNI XC SYU VC1922

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