There is no rift in Russia’s ruling tandem over the conflict in Libya, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
“We have a president in Russia who directs foreign policy and there can not be a split,” Putin told reporters in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Putin – current head of state Dmitry Medvedev’s predecessor as president and widely seen as the senior partner in the ruling tandem – likened on Monday a UN Security Council resolution on the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to “medieval calls for crusades.”
Russia – along with China – abstained in Thursday’s UN vote on the crisis in the North African state.
Without directly naming Putin, Medvedev later told journalists that “I think we all need to be careful in our evaluations. In no way is it acceptable to use expressions that in essence lead to a clash of civilizations, such as crusades and so forth — this is unacceptable.”
His comments caused an international and domestic stir and led to speculation of a rift in the power-sharing agreement between the president – generally seen as a modernizing, more Western-leaning reformer – and ex-KGB officer Putin.
Russia sees presidential polls next year and there has so far been no word on who from the ruling tandem will run. Putin was constitutionally barred from running for a third straight term in 2008.
While there have been at least three previous incidences of Medvedev appearing to contradict or criticize Putin, Monday’s comments by the president were the most high profile yet.
Allied air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces continued on Tuesday amid reports that dozens of Libyan civilians have died in the attacks.
Putin said those who were responsible for the deaths should “pray for the salvation of their souls.”
LJUBLJANA, March 22 (RIA Novosti)