Russia’s Vladimir Putin denies Libya rift with Medvedev

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has firmly rejected suggestions of a split over Libya with President Dmitry Medvedev, insisting they are “close”. Mr Putin was criticised by Mr Medvedev on Monday, after condemning the UN resolution on Libya and comparing it to “medieval calls for crusades”.

In a rare rebuke, the Russian president said his language was unacceptable. On a visit to Slovenia on Tuesday, Mr Putin insisted there could be no division over Russia’s foreign policy.

“If you are interested in whether there is any difference in the way Mr Medvedev and I approach these events, let me assure you: we are very close, and we understand each other,” he told reporters in Ljubljana. But he went on to say that the president should “formulate the country’s position in appropriate terms”, comments which correspondents say still appear lukewarm regarding the president.

Russia abstained in the UN Security Council vote on Libya, on a resolution described on Monday by Mr Putin as defective and flawed because it “allows for everything”. But his choice of the word “crusades” prompted Mr Medvedev to warn that such remarks could “lead to a clash of civilisations”.

Mr Putin’s criticism on Tuesday was confined to the violence taking place in Libya, whether inflicted by Libyans or the Western countries taking part in air strikes. He said those involved in the “civil war” as well as the “missile and bomb strikes” should be thinking about the increasing number of civilian victims. “They should think about it and pray for their souls to be saved,” he said – BBC