Monday, December 04, 2006

Key US Senator wants "confrontation" with Putin

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Incoming chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, Joe Biden, called for the United States to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin following the poisoning death of former KGB spy and Kremlin critic Alexandre Litvinenko.

"I don't know whether he's involved (in the poisoning), but our relations with Russia have to get straightened out to begin with," Biden said on Fox television.
"Russia is moving more and more toward an oligarchy here. Putin is consolidating power," Biden said, adding that the United States had failed to challenge Putin for several years.

"I think that Russia is sliding further away from genuine democracy and a free-market system and more toward a command economy and the control of a single man," he said, adding that he is "not a big fan of Putin's."
"I think we should have a direct confrontation with Putin politically about the need for him to change his course of action," Biden said.

Asked if such a confrontation could include pushing Russia out of the G-8 summit of industrialized nations, Biden said no.

But, he said, "I would consider laying down markers about whether or not, as he continues to consolidate power within that economy and in that country, whether or not he warrants continued membership," he said.

In a letter published after his death in a London hospital, Litvinenko, poisoned by a highly toxic radioactive substance, polonium 210, accused Putin of direct involvement in his murder, which the Russian president promptly denied.


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