Putin (right) poses with CTV Moscow bureau chief Ellen Pinchuk after Putin's interview with the Western media on July 12 (epa)
July 12, 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Western powers were still seeking to pressure Russia under the pretext of concern over its democratic development.
In comments to U.S. and French media ahead of the July 15-17 summit of the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrial countries in St. Petersburg, Putin said Russia is ready to listen to "well-intentioned criticism."
But he said it would not allow anyone to interfere in its internal affairs allegedly out of concern for Russian democracy.
In an interview with U.S. channel NBC, he singled out recent comments by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney who said Russia was backsliding on democracy and was using its energy resources as a tool to blackmail its neighbors.
Putin said Cheney's comments were a "hunting shot that missed the mark" and a "vestige of Cold War thinking."
Putin has also come pressure from domestic critics, with Russian opposition and civic groups calling on Western powers to exert pressure on Putin.
In a statement issued on July 12, representatives of opposition and civil-society groups at a conference in Moscow said systematic political repression had become a "prelude" to the G8 summit.
They also said a number of activists had been beaten and forcibly prevented from attending the two-day Other Russia conference, which ends today.
(AP, Interfax, ITAR-TASS, Reuters)