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Putin Says He Trusts President Bush

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States remains a key partner and praised U.S. President George Bush. But, the Russian leader also said he would like to know whether the United States is intentionally seeking to isolate Russia. The Bush administration so far has no comment on Putin's speech.

Speaking at his annual end-of-the-year press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he views the United States as one of Russia's main partners.

Mr. Putin, in particular, praises his relationship with President George Bush, saying that the American leader is a very decent and consistent man and that he fully trusts him as a partner.

But, Mr. Putin bristled when asked by a reporter to respond to a recent interview by Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, in which the Polish leader said "for every superpower, Russia without Ukraine is better than Russia with Ukraine."

He says that, if this was meant to limit Russia's ability to develop relations with its neighbors, then it expresses a desire to isolate Russia. He says although he does not think that isolation of Russia is the goal of U.S. policy, he will raise this with Mr.Bush during their meeting in February.

Mr. Putin also criticized the plan for elections in Iraq.

He says he doubts it's possible to create conditions for democratic elections when its entire territory is occupied by foreign troops.

The run-off presidential election in Ukraine, which is being re-run on Sunday, has highlighted tensions between Russia and the West. Mr. Putin backed Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in last month's presidential run-offs. But the ballot was declared invalid because of vote-rigging, and Western countries refused to recognize Mr. Yanukovych as the winner.