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Putin Accuses West Of Anti-Russian Plots


Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a meeting of the leadership of the Federal Security Service in Moscow on March 26.

President Vladimir Putin has accused Western nations of plotting to influence or disrupt Russian elections over the next few years, including a 2018 vote in which he could seek a fourth term.

The accusation was one of several that Putin leveled against the West during a March 26 meeting with senior officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the domestic successor of the Soviet KGB.

Putin said that Western intelligence services are "planning a series of actions during the election period in 2016-2018."

He said Western nations are seeking to "contain" Russia with an arsenal of measures ranging from attempts at "political isolation and economic pressure to a large-scale information war" and espionage.

Putin said efforts to "frighten" Russia "will never succeed."

Relations between Russia and the West have been driven to post-Cold War lows by Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatists fighting government forces in a war that has killed more than 6,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April.

During 15 years in power as president or prime minister, Putin has repeatedly accused the West, and the United States in particular, of seeking to undermine Russia's security and restrain its development following the 1991 Soviet collapse.

He stepped up such accusations upon his return to the Kremlin in 2012, accusing foreign governments of seeking to push him from power.

The United States and EU deny such claims, stressing that they want Russia to thrive, and Putin's critics at home accuse him of using the specter of Western aggression to rally support and maintain a firm grip on power.

He portrayed the country as beset by spies but successful in countering espionage, saying that "special operations stopped the activity of 52 staff officers and 290 agents of foreign security services."

Putin, who is accused of clamping down on NGOs with restrictive laws during his third term, repeated his accuation that Western secret services use nongovernmental organizations to "destabilize Russia."

"The attempts by the Western secret services to use public, nongovernmental organizations, and nonpolitical bodies to discredit the authorities and destabilize Russia's internal situation continue," he said.

Putin has not ruled out running for reelection in March 2018.

Russia's economy has been damaged by low prices for oil, a key export, and sanctions imposed by the West over its interference in Ukraine.

Putin said that the overall situation for Russia will not remain the same but "will change -- and hopefully for the better."

"The situation will change for the better not because we will always be stepping back, bending, or talking baby talk with anyone. It will change for the better only if we get stronger," Putin said.

With reporting by Interfax, RIA, and Rossia-24
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