Putin accuses US of encouraging Russian protests


THE CHILL blowing through relations between Moscow and Washington has sharpened after another icy exchange over the state of Russian democracy and US missile defence plans.

Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, accused the US of interfering in its affairs and emboldening protesters who have turned out in their thousands to complain about last Sunday’s election, which they claim was won by Mr Putin’s United Russia party only after massive fraud.

Moscow was infuriated by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s comments this week that the election was “neither free nor fair” and should be investigated for “fraud and manipulation”.

“She set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal, they heard this signal and started active work,” said Mr Putin, whose party appears rattled by the protests and the much reduced majority it will have in the next parliament. Saying “no one wants chaos” and vowing to punish protesters who break Russia’s strict laws on public gatherings, Mr Putin accused some of his countrymen of dancing “to the tune of a foreign state”.

Before the election, he lashed out at foreign-funded “Judases” and state media fiercely criticised certain NGOs and election monitors. “Pouring foreign money into electoral processes is particularly unacceptable,” Mr Putin said.