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Putin Says U.S. Irresponsible In Dealing With Crisis

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has criticized the United States for what he said was the country's inability to deal with the financial crisis affecting the global economy.

"Everything that is happening in the economic and financial sphere has started in the United States. This is a real crisis that all of us are facing," Putin told a government meeting.

"And what is really sad is that we see an inability to make appropriate decisions. This is no longer irresponsibility on the part of some individuals, but irresponsibility of the whole system, which as you know had pretensions to [global] leadership", he said.

Russian officials have sharply criticized Washington over the past month for what they say is its failure to stop a worsening of the crisis, which saw the Russian stock market tumble 50 percent from its peak in May.

Both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have rejected claims that Russia's military campaign in Georgia in August triggered an exodus of foreign investors.

Moscow's move to send in tanks and troops to repel an attempt by Georgian forces to retake the breakaway South Ossetia region sent diplomatic relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest levels since the Cold War.

The United States and other Western states condemned Russia's actions as disproportionate. Putin hit back by accusing political forces in Washington of orchestrating the conflict to favor their candidate in the race for the White House.

Russia has sent bomber jets and warships to U.S. political foe Venezuela on exercises and floated the idea of closer cooperation with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Many analysts have interpreted these steps as part of an "asymmetrical" response Russia promised to U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe, a plan fiercely opposed by the Kremlin.

Last month, Putin told an investment forum Western attempts to pressure Russia politically could jeopardize its ambitious economic modernization plans.

On October 1, he said the Russian economy -- with the third-largest gold and foreign-exchange reserves in the world -- was protected from the global market turmoil and that problems elsewhere would not derail Russian economic reforms.

"We have to draw a clear line between anticrisis management and work on long-term development goals," he said.

Russia, the world's second-largest crude oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia, is keen to parlay its accumulated energy wealth into greater political influence while financing infrastructure programs at home.

But tightening credit and the evaporation of long-term funding as a result of the current liquidity crisis threaten the $1 trillion plans to unclog jammed roads and rebuild ageing airports and power stations.