ST. PETERSBURG, May 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russia fears that the West’s refusal to engage in dialogue on Ukraine may lead to Kiev joining NATO and the US deploying missile defense systems in the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
"The Coup [in Ukraine] has occurred, and they do not want to talk to us. What should we think of? The next step will be Ukraine's membership in the NATO. They never ask us about that, and they do not engage in dialog with us, as we could see for the last two decades. 'No dialog,' they say, 'it is none of your business, and it does not concern you'," Putin said.
"Ukraine may become a member of the NATO tomorrow, and the next day Defense Missile elements of the United States may be deployed there…," the Russian president said during remarks at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which is hosting official delegations from 62 countries and CEOs of 146 major world companies.
The European Union, US and NATO representatives refused to attend the event.
Russian NATO envoy Alexander Grushko said Monday that Moscow had insisted on an immediate meeting of the NATO-Russia Council due to a sharp deterioration of the situation in crisis-hit Ukraine. The alliance suggested holding a meeting of ambassadors on May 27 but Moscow asked to postpone the summit.
On April 1, NATO ended all practical cooperation with Russia over Ukraine, only maintaining contacts at the ambassadors' level and higher. The foreign ministers of NATO members are to review relations with Moscow at their next meeting in June.
Putin earlier accused Western countries of supporting the unconstitutional coup in Ukraine at a time when Moscow was calling for searching a way out of the crisis in the country through dialog.
The statement came at a time of strained Russia-EU relations, after the EU, together with the US, imposed sanctions on Russian officials for allegedly escalating the Ukrainian crisis.
Ukraine went through a regime change resembling a military coup on February 22, after months of clashes between the Russia-oriented authorities and supporters of Ukraine’s affiliation with Europe. The country’s parliament ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, changed the constitution and scheduled early presidential elections for May 25.
Since March, when the former Ukrainian Crimean peninsula rejoined Russia, anti-government protests have been spreading across the mainly Russian-speaking southeastern regions of the Ukraine. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions proclaimed autonomy earlier this month.
Ukraine’s new interim authorities, backed by radical ultranationalist groups, launched a special operation to crack down on the protesters in mid-April, which has already led to dozens of deaths and injuries.