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23 December 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today raised the possibility that the West, and the U.S. in particular, is trying to "isolate" Russia by interfering in Moscow's relations with its neighbors.
Putin, speaking at a news conference, rejected Western criticism of the flawed second-round runoff election in Ukraine last month.
He hit out at Western "double standards," and raised his own concerns about the possibility of free and fair elections in Iraq in January amid ongoing violence there.
Putin said Russia does not intend to annex any state, and does not try to prevent former Soviet republics from becoming independent states.
Regarding the breakaway Republic of Chechnya, Putin said the West might be conducting a policy aimed at "creating elements that would destabilize" Russia.
Russia has criticized Western encouragement of negotiations with Chechen representatives, accusing Western countries of abetting terrorists, and firmly turned down any talks.
However Putin said he is "satisfied" with the development of relations between the United States and Russia, and stressed their common cause in the fight against terrorism.