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.