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Putin Tightens Control Of Defense Industry, Blasts NATO Over Ukraine

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) addresses a meeting of government officials from the defense sector at Kremlin in Moscow on September 10.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) addresses a meeting of government officials from the defense sector at Kremlin in Moscow on September 10.

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree taking direct charge of a committee that oversees Russia's defense sector.

Addressing a meeting in Moscow on weapons modernization plans on September 10, Putin said Russia had no intention of launching a new arms race, but would respond to all security challenges.

He accused NATO of using rhetoric over the conflict in Ukraine to "resuscitate itself."

Putin said Russia will focus on developing new strategic nuclear weapons, aerospace defenses, and high-precision conventional weapons.

Moscow is trying to reduce reliance on Western equipment following sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Putin said potential threats to Russia's security must be thoroughly analyzed, and an "adequate response" given to each of them.

The Russian president also said a draft of Russia's new military doctrine should be drawn up by December.

Poroshenko To Address U.S. Congress

Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) has invited Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to address a joint session of Congress on September 18.

The address is generally viewed as the highest honor that the U.S. Congress can give to a foreign leader.

Boehner said in a statement, "Having President Poroshenko address Congress is another signal of our steadfast commitment to the aspirations of his people."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee) had sent a letter to Boehner asking him to invite Poroshenko.

The Ukrainian president is scheduled to visit the White House on the same day.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addressed Congress in a joint meeting in 2005.

'Russian Troops Pulling Back'

Relations between Russia and the West have plunged over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists since April.

A NATO summit last week decided to create a rapid-response force to address the threat of Russian aggression, and warned Moscow that no third country had a veto on NATO expansion.

Kyiv and NATO say Moscow has sent troops and armor to help the rebels, which Moscow denies.

Earlier on September 10, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said Russia had withdrawn 70 percent of the troops back across the border.

He did not give numbers, but NATO has said there were several thousand Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

He told a televised government meeting that the move "gives us another firm hope that peaceful initiatives have a good future."

Poroshenko also said government forces were regrouping in eastern Ukraine to reinforce defense, not for a new offensive.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 9 claimed there was a heavy concentration of government forces in an area northeast of Donetsk and accused Kyiv or preparing a strike against the rebels despite a cease-fire.

The truce came into effect in eastern Ukraine on September 5 after an accord was signed by pro-Russian separatists and Kyiv officials in Minsk.

Poroshenko said he would submit a bill to parliament next week to grant "special status" to areas in eastern Ukraine but that the country will remain united.

He said that "there is no -- and there could not be -- federalization and forfeiture of this territory."

The separatists have said that they still intend to break away from Kyiv.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on September 10 for the European Union to put new sanctions against Russia into effect immediately because peace plans for eastern Ukraine have not yet been implemented fully.

The EU adopted the sanctions on September 8 but stopped short of implementing them immediately.

Ambassadors from EU member countries were holding another meeting on the sanctions in Brussels on September 10.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Interfax
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