Putin fires warning over Nato presence in Black Sea

Putin fires warning over Nato presence

in Black Sea

russian prime minister ‘will act’ if west continues to support Georgia

Published: 03/09/2008

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned yesterday that he would respond to the increased number of Nato ships in the Black Sea in the aftermath of the war with Georgia.

Russia has repeatedly complained that Nato has too many ships in the area.

“We don’t understand what American ships are doing on the Georgian shores but this is a question of taste. It’s a decision by our American colleagues,” Mr Putin said.

“The second question is why the humanitarian aid is being delivered on naval vessels armed with the newest rocket systems.”

He said Russia’s reaction to Nato ships “will be calm, without any sort of hysteria. But, of course – there will be an answer.”

Asked exactly what measures Russia would take, Mr Putin answered: “You’ll see.”

Separately, Russian officials criticised European threats to postpone talks on a partnership deal over the war in Georgia but the Russian envoy to the EU said he was not surprised the EU declined to impose sanctions on Russia.

“We are too interdependent,” Vladimir Chizhov said.

“Russia and the European Union are bound by destiny to be close partners.”

EU officials said on Monday that unless Russian troops pulled back from positions in Georgia, talks on the wide-ranging political and economic agreement would be delayed.

The UK and Eastern European nations held out for a tougher line but Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas deterred stronger sanctions.

Mr Putin visited Uzbekistan yesterday, highlighting that dependence: He announced a new natural gas pipeline to cross Uzbekistan, strengthening Russian control over Central Asian gas exports to Europe and undermining western-backed efforts for a rival trans-Caspian route.

Criticising the EU decision, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Russia had fulfilled “all of its commitments”.

He claimed efforts were under way to rebuild Georgia’s armed forces and said Georgian military forces were behind protests against Russian troops in the country.

Later last night, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow does not fear expulsion from the G8 over the war in Georgia, adding that the west needs Russia.

He said Moscow would not agree to any contacts with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, whom he called a “political corpse”.