Putin slams West for 'medieval crusade' in Libya

21st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Monday slammed the UN resolution allowing military action on Libya as a "medieval call to crusade" and hit out at Washington for its readiness to resort to force.

In one of his most virulent diatribes against the West in years, Russia's de facto number one said there was no "logic" or "conscience" to the military action against Libya.

"The resolution by the Security Council, of course, is defective and flawed," Putin told workers on a visit to a missile factory in the central Russian region of Udmurtia.

"To me, it resembles some sort of medieval call to crusade when someone would appeal to someone to go to a certain place and free something there," he said in televised remarks, referring to the expeditions by armies in the Middle Ages to end Muslim rule over the holy land.

Putin's comments marked a sharp hardening of Moscow's rhetoric against the Western military action on Libya after Russia abstained from the UN resolution last week, refusing to use its veto which would have blocked its passage.

The Russian prime minister also lashed out at the "steady trend" of US military intervention around the world, accusing Washington of acting without conscience.

"I am concerned about the ease with which the decision to use force was taken," Putin was quoted as saying in reference to the current international campaign in Libya.

Noting that the United States had already involved itself in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin added: "Now it's Libya's turn.

"And all of this under the guise of protecting peaceful civilians. Where is the logic, where is the conscience? There is neither one nor the other," Putin said.

He did not elaborate over why Russia had abstained in the resolution vote when it was so staunchly opposed to the text.

Putin added that the events in Libya showed that Russia had taken the right decision in strengthening its military capabilities, in possible reference to its massive new $650 billion rearmament plan.

"Today's events in Libya prove that we are doing everything right in terms of strengthening Russia's military capabilities," he said.

He also announced that Russia planned to double the production of strategic and tactical missile systems from 2013.

"Already from 2013 production of missile systems should virtually double," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying.

Russian air-defence troops would also receive the S-400, an advanced surface-to-air missile system, as part of a current army overhaul, Putin was quoted as saying.

Putin's hardline comments sit awkwardly with the reset in US-Russia ties championed by his successor in the Kremlin, President Dmitry Medvedev, which has seen a swift warming of relations over the last months.

Putin's comments came despite conciliatory remarks from US defence secretary Robert Gates, who praised Moscow for refusing to block military action against Libya as evidence of "extraordinary" progress in US-Russia ties.

Currently in Russia's second city Saint Petersburg, Gates heads to Moscow on Tuesday to meet his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, and President Dmitry Medvedev.

However, conspicuously, there was no scheduled meeting with Putin for Gates' visit.

Observers have long speculated that the US favours Medvedev over Putin. Some reports even suggested that US Vice President Joe Biden wanted to warn Putin against considering a return to the Kremlin in 2012 polls, on his visit to Russia this month.

Russia had initially backed international measures against the Kadhafi regime, signing on to UN Security Council sanctions that imposed an arms embargo against Libya and other sanctions against Kadhafi's family.

Some Russian defence officials had initially expressed concern about the sanctions, saying the UN arms export prohibition may cost the country some $4 billion in current and future contracts.

© 2011 AFP

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