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Putin slams ‘cynical’ West on Syria, Iran

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday hit out at the West’s “cynical” stance on Syria and warned against strikes on Iran in an article ahead of his likely return to the Kremlin in weekend polls.

The aggressive tone of Putin’s messages echoed the diplomatic battles he waged as president in 2000-2008 and may only feed concerns about Russia’s policies on his return for a six-year term in Sunday’s election.

Putin strongly defended Moscow’s decision to jointly veto with China two UN Security Council draft resolutions condemning the Syrian regime for its crackdown on the opposition.

He accused the West of “lacking the patience to work out an adjusted and balanced” resolution that also required the resistance forces to halt their fire and pull back from flashpoint cities such as Homs.

“All that remained was to demand that the armed opposition do the same as the government — namely, withdraw their fighting units and detachments from the cities,” Putin wrote in the Moskovskiye Novosti daily.

“A refusal to do so was cynical,” Putin said in his seventh and final article released ahead of the vote.

Putin had led Russia’s opposition to NATO’s air campaign against Moscow’s Soviet-era ally Libya and on Monday suggested that the West’s support for the Arab Spring revolts may have been rooted in commercial interests.

“It seems that in countries that went through the Arab Spring — just as had been the case in Iraq — Russia ended up losing its position on local markets that it had worked on developing for decades,” said Putin.

“One can get the idea that these tragic events were to a certain extent stimulated not by concern for human rights but by someone’s market interests.”

Putin also issued a stark warning against strikes on Iran — another nation with close military and commercial ties with Russia — over its controversial nuclear programme.

“Russia is unquestionably worried about the mounting threat of a military strike against this country,” said Putin.

“If this happens, then the consequences will be truly catastrophic. Their real extent will be impossible to imagine.”

Putin’s previous articles have been received by Russian commentators as the outlines of his future policies as Kremlin chief rather than campaign rhetoric.

The former KGB spy provided a detailed breakdown of his view of every region ranging from Asia to Europe and the United States.

He has already picked several battles with the US State Department since announcing his intention to return to the Kremlin and on Monday once again questioned Washington’s plans to deploy a missile defence shield in Europe.

“The Americans are obsessed with the idea of guaranteeing themselves absolute invulnerability — something that I would note is utopian and unfeasible both in technological and geopolitical terms,” Putin wrote.

“But that, essentially, is the heart of the problem.”

Russia fears the European shield may one day make its nuclear arsenal ineffective and has has launched a new 10-year rearmament programme costing nearly $800 billion.

Putin notably devoted a special section to China and its emergence on the world stage.

Moscow and Beijing experienced periodic tensions in the Soviet era but have more recently to coordinate their positions at the United Nations on the world’s most outstanding disputes.

Both have come under fierce Western and Arab condemnation for their veto of the Syria resolutions and Putin underscored China’s growing importance to Russia.

“China’s voice in the world really is growing stronger and we welcome this because Beijing shares our vision of a just world order,” said Putin.

“We will continue providing each other with support on the international arena,” Putin said.