Medvedev accuses West of pushing Russia behind a new 'Iron Curtain'

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Moscow, Sep 19 (UNI) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today alleged the West was trying to push Russia behind a new 'Iron Curtain'.

''In actual fact they push us down that path of development, which is not based on full-fledged, civilised cooperation with other countries, but on autonomous development behind thick walls, behind an Iron Curtain,'' Mr Medvedev said at a meeting with civil society organisations in the Kremlin.

''This is not our path,'' he said, stressing ''There is no point in returning to the past, we have made our choice.'' He said tensions with the West over the Georgia conflict do not mean Russia wants to isolate itself behind a new 'Iron Curtain'.

The statement came after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday said that Russia's ''aggression'' against Georgia last month had put the country on a path of ''self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance,'' and urged Western states to stand up to Russia's bullying behaviour.

''All the time they are saying 'Finally they (Russian authorities) showed their true face...the hawks have taken the upper hand','' Mr Medvedev alleged.

''I opened the Web this morning and saw our American friends saying they will continue supporting teachers, doctors, scientists, labour union leaders, judges in Russia,'' he said referring to Ms Rice's speech.

''What does that mean? Do they plan to feed our judges? Will they nurture corruption? If this goes on like that, they will soon start picking presidents here,'' the president said.

''We do not preach at anyone, we want our arguments to be heard and the difficult choice this country made recently to be understood by our international partners,'' he added.

''This is something we will strive for despite all sorts of rubbish we have heard from different sides recently,'' he noted.

Mr Medvedev's pledge that Russia will not retreat into authoritarianism appeared aimed, in part, at rebuilding battered confidence on financial markets.

Russian stocks this week suffered their worst losses in a decade, though they recovered strongly today after the state made available a 130 billion dollar emergency support package.

The fall was caused by a combination of global financial turmoil, falling oil prices and market worries that the rift with the West over Georgia had driven up political risk.

Speaking at an economic forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi today, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin echoed Mr Medvedev's message, saying Russia needed to modernise its free-market economy, not roll it back.

''Our policy, our basic approaches remain unchanged,'' Mr Putin told the forum. ''We are betting on private initiative, freedom of enterprise and rational integration into the world economy,'' he added.


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