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Russia Warns West Against Meddling in Ukraine

During a visit to Turkey, Russian President Vladimr Putin warned western countries against fomenting divisions in Ukraine and other countries, describing such attempts as counterproductive and destabilizing.

Mr. Putin issued his warnings during a two-day visit to Turkey, the first by a Russian leader in 32 years.

Mr. Putin emphasized that he would work with whomever is elected in the rerun of a disputed presidential election in Ukraine. In remarks to Russian news agencies Mr. Putin said, "We accept … the wishes of any country in former Soviet territory and will work with any elected leader."

Ukraine is set to hold a second run-off presidential vote on Dec. 26, after the the former Soviet Republic's supreme court backed oppositions claims of systematic fraud in last month's election. The Ukraine Election Commission had declared the pro-Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, the winner of the November poll.

Moscow has accused Western parties of encouraging mass demonstrations against Mr. Yanukovych.

President Putin began a two-day tour in Turkey by signing several economic cooperation agreements covering trade, energy, and defense. Mr. Putin dwelled on the importance of Russia's strong trade relationship with Turkey. He said he was also pleased with joint efforts to combat terrorism.

Russia has frequently accused Turkey of allowing Chechen separatists to use Turkish territory to recruit fighters and smuggle weapons. Turkey recently passed a law that effectively bans private charities from sending money to Chechnya, in a bid to address such concerns.

Millions of Turks trace their families back to various former Soviet Republics as well as existing Muslim republics in Russia, notably Chechnya and Dagestan. There is strong sympathy for Chechen separatists even among Turkish politicians. Some are members of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party formed by a group of former Islamists.

Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Russia of harboring Kurdish separatists known as PKK Kongra-Gel, a group that is on the EU and U.S. lists of terrorist organizations. Russia has rejected Turkish demands to also label the Kurdish group a terrorist organization.