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Obama says US pausing to reassess relations with Russia

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US President Barack Obama (R) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

US President Barack Obama says the United States is pausing to reassess relations with Russia, amid what he called ‘backward’ thinking by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s adoption of a more anti-US attitude.

Obama said there are a number of other issues of concern such as emerging differences around Syria and around human rights, besides the recent extradition spat over American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

“Frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress, Russia has not moved,” Obama said during a White House press conference. “I’ve encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward rather than backwards on those issues with mixed success.”

The US president canceled on August 7 a scheduled meeting with Putin, which was expected to be an opportunity for the two countries to reset diplomatic ties.

Russia responded to the cancellation by saying that Obama’s decision was linked to Snowden, who has been granted a one-year asylum in Russia.

Moscow added that it only shows that the United States “still isn’t ready to build relations with Russia on equal footing.”

Russia and the US do not see eye to eye on the issue of turmoil in Syria. Washington supports anti-Damascus Takfiri militants seeking to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whereas Moscow remains a supporter of Assad.

Tensions between the two countries have been growing since December last year over the US Magnitsky Act, which denies any Russian official, who Washington considers as a human rights violator, entry to the US.

The act is named after Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody prior to trial three years ago.

President Putin responded at the time by saying Washington still has not closed Guantanamo prison, where people are held without trial and “walk in chains like in the Middle Ages.”

Moscow has banned US citizens from adopting Russian children after several cases of abuse were reported, including 19 deaths, of adopted Russian children, while in the care of their adoptive American families.


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