Putin media aide seeks to play down Medvedev row

22nd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Tuesday played down the Russian premier's public row with President Dmitry Medvedev over the Libya conflict, saying that Putin was only expressing his personal views.

Himself saying that he was only voicing his private opinion, Putin on Monday unleashed a furious verbal attack on last week's UN resolution allowing military action on Libya, comparing it to a "medieval call to crusade".

Russia's prime minister is widely seen as the country's de facto leader, with some analysts predicting Putin's return to the Kremlin as president in next year's elections.

But Medvedev took the rare step of publicly contradicting his mentor, using a hastily-convened briefing at his residence outside Moscow to call the comments unacceptable.

"Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions which essentially lead to a clash of civilisations. Such as 'crusade' and so on," Medvedev said.

Some analysts said the spat marked the start of Russia's presidential election campaign, even though both men have vowed not to run against each other and decide privately on a single candidate.

But Putin's top spokesman brushed off the suggestion, saying that Medvedev's word was final when it came to foreign policy issues.

"The prime minister's assessment is nothing but his personal point of view," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies during Putin's visit to Ljubljana.

"Meanwhile, the assessment declared by the head of state is the single official position of the Russian Federation, which everyone supports."

Some sources quoted by the Russian media, however, said that Putin was genuinely displeased with Medvedev's position on Libya and would be using other occasions to criticise the international campaign.

A government source told the Vedomosti business daily that Russia's position on Libya needed to be "corrected" and indicated that Putin would speak out again while on this week's visit to Serbia and Slovenia.

© 2011 AFP

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