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Putin Accuses US of Supporting Rebels  04/26 11:34

   MOSCOW (AP) -- In a new documentary, Russian President Vladimir Putin says 
intercepted calls showed that the U.S. helped separatists in Russia's North 
Caucasus in the 2000s, underscoring his suspicions of the West.

   The two-hour documentary, which began airing Sunday afternoon on the 
state-owned Rossiya-1 TV channel, is dedicated to Putin's 15 years in office. 
It focused on Putin's achievements as well as challenges to his rule --- which 
the producers and Putin blame on Western interference.

   Putin was elected Russian president on March 26, 2000, after spending three 
months as acting president, and was sworn in on May 7, 2000.

   The documentary showed Putin interviewed at the Kremlin in the dimly-lit St. 
Alexander's Hall. In excerpts released shortly before the film's broadcast, 
Putin said Russian intelligence agencies had intercepted calls between the 
separatists and U.S. intelligence based in Azerbaijan during the early 2000s, 
proving that Washington was helping the insurgents.

   He didn't specify when the calls took place.

   Following a disastrous war in the 1990s, Russia fought Islamic insurgents in 
Chechnya and neighboring regions in the volatile North Caucasus.

   "They were actually helping them, even with transportation," Putin said.

   Putin said he raised the issue with then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who 
promised Putin to "kick the ass" of the intelligence officers in question. But 
in the end, Putin said the Russian intelligence agency FSB received a letter 
from their "American counterparts" who asserted their right to "support all 
opposition forces in Russia," including the Islamic separatists in the Caucasus.

   Putin also expressed his fears that the West wishes Russia harm as he 
recalled how some world leaders told him they would not mind Russia's possible 

   "My counterparts, a lot of presidents and prime ministers told me later on 
that they had decided for themselves by then that Russia would cease to exist 
in its current form," he said, referring to the time period around the second 
conflict in the Caucasus. "The only question was when it happens and what 
consequences would be."

   The latest poll by the independent Levada agency showed that the approval 
rating for Putin, whose third term in office ends in 2018, was a whopping 86 
percent in April.

   Putin's interview has revealed the depth of his disappointment in the West.

   The West, in Putin's words, is friendly to Russia only when it is on its 

   "The so-calling ruling classes, political and economic elites like us only 
when we are wretched and poor and stand with a begging hand," he said.

   Whenever Russia begins to grow economically and politically, the West, 
according to Putin, begins to punish it. Putin said that he does not view 
Western sanctions against Russia as a reaction to last year's annexation of the 
Crimean Peninsula, but rather "an attempt to hamper Russia's development.

   "This is a policy we have been familiar with for centuries."

   Putin defended the annexation of Crimea as a response to the will of the 
people, which restored "historic justice."

   Putin, who hasn't announced whether he will run for presidency in 2018, 
insisted that he still hasn't lost touch with ordinary Russians and that he 
"may very well imagine a life beyond this position."


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