MOSCOW, March 7 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman lashed out at the West on Friday and defended Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but said he hoped a new Cold War would not break out despite “extremely deep disagreements”.
The remarks, broadcast on one main state channel while another showed the Paralympic Games opening ceremony, appeared to be part of an effort by Putin to avoid a major confrontation with the West while giving no ground in the dispute over Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov said “extremely deep disagreements of a conceptual nature between Russia and the European Union and the United States have already been registered”.
But he added: “There still remains hope ... that some points of agreement can be found as a result of dialogue - which our partners, thank God, have not yet rejected.”
Peskov said calls for talks between Russia and Ukraine with the West as a mediator “make us smile”. He said Western countries had failed to follow though on a Feb. 21 peace deal between Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich and his foes, and that this had cost them their credibility.
Peskov said the Kremlin was not behind moves by leaders in Ukraine’s Crimea region to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. But Moscow was concerned there would be ethnic persecution if those behind what he called the “coup” that brought down Yanukovich were to reach Crimea or eastern Ukraine.