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Putin Defends Russia Against WikiLeaks Corruption Allegations

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (file)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (file)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken out against US criticisms of Russian democracy, which were made public by the website WikiLeaks. In a leaked cable, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Russian democracy has "disappeared".

Putin was speaking on U.S. television network CNN. He said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was "profoundly wrong" when he said that Russia is run by its security services.

Gates' comment was found in a February cable, one of over 200,000 that have been passed onto WikiLeaks.

Dan Plesch is at the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy in London. He says the U.S. opinions on Russian corruption are in-line with the generally held view.

"I think the idea of there being a high level of criminal operation within high levels of Russian society is one that people generally discuss pretty openly," Plesch said. "But you have got to also understand that from an international perspective, many people view the United States particularly, with its financially driven electoral system, as a deeply corrupt society."

Other cables that were leaked describe Russia as a "virtual mafia state" and depict Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev as the fictional character 'Robin' to Putin's 'Batman'.

Putin described the comments as impudent and aggressive.

But this debacle, says Plesch, shouldn't alter the overall arch of current U.S. / Russian relations, which he says is on a positive trajectory.

"The Obama administration has worked hard on START, they have worked hard on collaboration on missile defense and worked hard with Russia on Iran. And I also think that the Soviet Union with Medvedev has made very substantial steps," Plesch said. "So I think there is a good room for optimism and that's what we should be looking to build upon."

The relationship between Putin and Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi has also come under the spotlight.

The cables contain allegations that Berlusconi may have profited from energy deals with Russia.

In London, WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson defended the leaks.

"If the global stability is based on deception and lies, maybe it needs a bit of shaking up," Hrafnsson said. "These revelations that are already being published out of these cables are showing that government leaders are saying one thing publicly and another privately."

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexei Sazonov said Thursday that there is nothing new or unexpected for Russia in the cables. He said Russia is committed to its relationship with the U.S.