Putin ready to meet new Ukraine President, taunts US

Wednesday 04 June 2014 22.01
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Vladimir Putin said he does not plan to avoid anyone at the D-Day commemorations
Vladimir Putin said he does not plan to avoid anyone at the D-Day commemorations
Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy gave a joint news conference at the G7 summit
Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy gave a joint news conference at the G7 summit
US President Barack Obama and President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine shake hands
US President Barack Obama and President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine shake hands

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is ready to meet Ukraine's new president at this week's D-Day commemorations in France.

In an interview with French television station TF1 and radio Europe1 aired today, the Russian leader also delivered an attack on US attempts to isolate his country over the Ukraine crisis.

Asked if he would meet and shake hands with Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko in Normandy on Friday if that could be organised, Mr Putin replied: "I don't plan to avoid anyone."

He added: "There will be other guests, and I'm not going to avoid any of them. I will talk with all of them."

Mr Putin also issued a scathing dismissal of US claims that they have evidence of Russian military interference in Ukraine.

"Proof? Let's see it!" he said.

"The entire world remembers the US secretary of state demonstrating the evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the UN Security Council.

"Eventually, the US troops invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hanged and later it turned out there had never been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

Asked if he thought US officials were lying, Mr Putin replied: "There are no armed forces, no 'Russian instructors' in Ukraine -- and there never were any."

Mr Putin is to meet with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany in France tomorrow or Friday, but US President Barack Obama has declined to offer him a formal meeting.

The Russian leader said he could not understand that stance, but insisted he was open to a meeting with his American counterpart.

"It is his choice, I am ready for dialogue," Mr Putin said.

He also accused the US of hypocrisy in its "aggressive" attempts to punish Russia over Ukraine.

"We have almost no military forces abroad, yet look: everywhere in the world there are American military bases, American troops thousands of kilometres from their borders.

"They interfere in the interior affairs of this or that country, so it is difficult to accuse us of abuses." 

EU offers to hold Ukraine donor talks

Meanwhile, the EU is ready to organise talks next month to set up a donors' conference for the new government in Ukraine, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso has said.

Mr Barroso announced the decision at the opening of a G7 leaders' summit, where Ukraine and reinforcing eastern Europe against a resurgent Russia will dominate the agenda.

"We stand ready to organise a donors' coordination meeting in Brussels in July," Mr Barroso said, adding that the EU would do whatever it could to encourage democracy in the region.

"We say that when people are given a real choice they always choose democracy," he said. 

Mr Barroso was speaking only hours after US President Barack Obama, also in Brussels for the summit, met Ukraine's newly elected leader Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, also speaking at the opening of the summit, said he was going to attend the inauguration ceremony for Mr Poroschenko on Saturday.

"Destabilisation is also a threat to Georgia and Moldova," Mr Van Rompuy added, in a veiled reference to the threat of Russia meddling in countries on its borders.

"Association Agreements with both will be signed in Brussels ahead of the European Council meeting on the 27th of June," he said.

It was a similar association agreement, reneged on last minute by Ukraine under pressure from Russia, which precipitated the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War late last year.

Earlier, Mr Obama called Mr Poroshenko a "wise selection" to lead the country and discussed with him ways the US can help train Ukrainian military personnel.

He said they discussed the new leader's plan to restore peace, boost economic growth, and reduce energy dependence on Russia.

Mr Obama said US aid to Ukraine could include night-vision goggles.