'Mind your own business,' Putin tells foreign critics
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, expected to reclaim the presidency in March elections, promised Monday a balanced foreign policy but warned against outside interference in domestic affairs.
Addressing Russians on primetime television to explain his controversial decision to seek a third mandate as president, Putin said his foreign critics should mind their own business and "fight inflation" and "obesity" in a thinly veiled but startling dig at the United States.
"In the past, today and in the future we have conducted and will conduct a balanced policy aimed at creating favourable conditions for the country's development," Putin said.
"And this means that we want to have good neighbourly, friendly ties with all our partners."
Putin spoke after many analysts in the West warned that his planned Kremlin comeback could deal a blow to the US-Russian "reset" in ties and usher in frostier relations with the West.
Replying to a request from his interviewers to comment on Western attempts to brand him a "hawk," Putin said:
"First off, a hawk is a good little bird. I am a person anyway. But I am against any cliches."
"Naturally, we've protected and will protect in the most active manner our national interests but we've always done this in a civilised way and will continue to do so in the future."
Putin's announcement of his decision to seek the presidency which he already held between 2000 and 2008 shocked many in the West.
Many critics, especially abroad, have accused the former KGB officer of seeking to bully smaller neighbours and pressure them into closer cooperation with Moscow.
"I can tell these critics -- and they are clearly unscrupulous critics: you know what, mind your own business," Putin said.
"Fight growing inflation, a growing state debt, obesity, finally," Putin said in an obvious dig at the United States, where around 25 percent of people are obese, according to a recent Gallup poll.
"It would be a big mistake for us now to pull on the robes of some sort of superpower and try to dictate to someone our demands and rights if something does not concern us," he added in a trademark bombastic style in stark contrast to incumbent President Dmitry Medvedev's more cautious approach.
"There is no need for us to play the role of world policeman, if someone likes it, let them do it."
Some analysts say US-Russia ties may take a beating as Medvedev is gearing up to leave the Kremlin next year and US President Barack Obama faces a tough re-election bid in 2012.
Some Republicans view Putin's KGB background with suspicion, suspecting him of authoritarian motives and bemoaning an erosion of freedoms under his watch.
Putin indicated he would not take foreign advice.
"One of the tasks is to create a steady political system which would develop relying on its own foundations and not on the basis of advice and commands from abroad.
"Our country cannot exist as a satellite state," he said.
"We cannot function like some countries of the former so-called Eastern bloc, the Soviet bloc, the Warsaw pact countries -- and I know such countries -- they cannot even appoint even a defence minister or chief of the general staff without consulting an ambassador of a foreign state."
© 2011 AFP