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Russia's Putin Addresses CIS Summit Overshadowed by Ukraine

  • VOA News

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Minsk, Oct. 10, 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin -- embroiled in an a bitter standoff with Western governments over Ukraine -- said his country does not oppose moves by ex-Soviet states to establish closer economic ties with the West.

But he told leaders of 11 Commonwealth of Independent States on Friday that he faults member-states for not considering the risks of such moves to the Russian economy.

Ukraine -- seeking greater economic prosperity and stability -- signed a historic free trade agreement with the European Union in June, after rejecting Kremlin overtures to form a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Ahead of the EU deal, pro-Western protesters in Kyiv drove Ukraine's former president from office, after the pro-Moscow leader rejected EU trade pact proposals in favor of the Russian-dominated CIS.

In April, weeks after the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovych, separatists in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine launched a rebellion that has claimed more than 3,500 lives.

Russia's role in supporting the six-month rebellion has been widely condemned in the West and triggered a spate of Western sanctions against Moscow.