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Kremlin Official: US Using Ukraine to Weaken Russia

FILE - Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia's Security Council, is seen speaking at a defense conference in Moscow.

A ranking Kremlin official has accused the United States of attempting to drag Russia into the Ukraine conflict with the aim of weakening Moscow and effecting regime change, according to excerpts of an interview published Tuesday by a Russian government daily.

“For the U.S., Ukraine in and of itself is not a matter of interest. Their aim is to weaken our positions. The Americans are trying to drag the Russian Federation into an international military conflict, and with the help of events in Ukraine, bring about regime change [in Moscow] and ultimately dismember our country,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta quoted Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Kremlin's Security Council, as saying.

Citing a Russian mantra which sees the United States as envying Russia for its territories, Patrushev also said Washington was eyeing the country’s energy resources.

“American experts… believe that Moscow has too many vast territories under its control. They see such a distribution of natural resources as unfair and believe that steps should be taken which would provide other states with free access to them,” Patrushev said.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said that, despite current challenges, Russia will continue to pursue a foreign policy defending its own interests.

“The Russian Federation, no matter how much [external] pressure it faces, will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy, one that represents the fundamental interests of our people and is in line with global security and stability,” said Putin in a message Tuesday to diplomats and Foreign Ministry employees published by the Kremlin on what in Russia is observed as Foreign Service Day.

The statements come a day after President Barack Obama, at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that the U.S., along with its European allies, was giving diplomacy another chance to settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, he did not rule out the option of providing defensive weapons for Ukraine in its conflict with pro-Russia separatist rebels in the country’s east, should diplomatic efforts fail. The idea of providing lethal aid to Kyiv is currently being debated in Washington.

Another round of peace talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France is scheduled for Wednesday in Minsk, Belarus.

Kyiv and the West accuse Russia of having instigated the conflict as part of efforts to destabilize Ukraine in retribution for its toppling of a Moscow-backed president and for its new pro-Europe course. Russia denies the charge.