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Putin Sharply Criticizes Ukraine Over Georgian Arms Reports


Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, in Moscow.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, in Moscow.

(RFE/RL) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in remarks that overshadowed a gas-pricing deal with Kyiv, has accused Ukraine of selling weapons to Georgia that were used against Russian forces during their brief war in August.

Speaking after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, outside Moscow on October 2, Putin said Ukraine might also have dispatched military personnel to fight on the Georgian side during the conflict.

"I think that there couldn't be a bigger crime against both the Ukrainian and the Russian peoples than supplying arms in a conflict zone," Putin said. "And when it comes to arms deliveries, this is understandable because it's a business. But when military systems and people are used to kill soldiers -- in this case, Russian soldiers -- then, in this case, it is a signal, a very alarming signal for us."

Russian officials have claimed that Ukraine helped arm Georgia in the run-up to the war -- accusations that were reiterated by the country's pro-Kremlin press this week ahead of the meeting.

The daily "Izvestia" on October 2 accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko of supplying air-defense systems and rocket launchers to Georgia.

Tymoshenko sought to defuse tensions during her meeting with Putin, pledging that a parliamentary commission would investigate the allegations and saying she was confident "such facts will not be confirmed."

"As long as there has been no confirmation of these [allegations], we will be developing constructive, friendly, harmonious relations," she said. "And if any such claims are confirmed, in violation of the laws of any of the countries, then this will require a separate intervention by certain law enforcement structures."

Tymoshenko, who is engaged in a power struggle with her former ally Yushchenko, deflected responsibility for the possible arms sales. She said it was the president and his Security Council, not her own cabinet, that oversee weapons sales abroad.

Despite their tense exchange, Putin and Tymoshenko were able to sign a memorandum on the price Ukraine will pay for Russian natural gas over the next three years.

The document didn't spell out new prices, but it will serve as a basis for signing future gas deals.

Russia has been increasing gas costs for Kyiv in recent years, sparking a series of bitter pricing disputes between the two countries.

Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy, currently pays $179.50 per 1,000 cubic meter of gas -- still significantly less than the $500 Russia charges some European countries.
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