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Cheney adds to U.S.-Russia tension

The vice president's words draw an angry reaction. A publication refers to a new Cold War.

Published May 6, 2006

MOSCOW - Russian media on Friday described Vice President Dick Cheney's harsh criticism of Russia and President Vladimir Putin as the start of a new Cold War.

Cheney's words Thursday at a conference in Lithuania drew a comparison to Winston Churchill's famed "Iron Curtain" speech and reflected the deepening distrust between Washington and a newly assertive Kremlin.

The official Russian response to Cheney's speech has been cautious. But angry reaction from politicians and pundits allied with the Kremlin reflects a chill between two presidents who seemed to hit it off early in their relationship.

In his speech, Cheney accused Russia of cracking down on religious and political rights and of using its energy reserves as "tools of intimidation or blackmail."

Opponents of reform in Russia, the vice president said, "are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade" after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet empire.

There was no public reaction from Putin or the government.

But the prominent business daily Kommersant said Cheney's comments marked "the beginning of a second Cold War" and harkened back to Churchill's speech condemning Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe with the "Iron Curtain" label.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not criticize Cheney, but condemned the meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, which brought together the pro-Western leaders of former Soviet republics on the Baltic and Black seas.

Cheney's criticism came two months before President Bush is to join Putin for a summit of the Group of Eight major industrial powers.

[Last modified May 6, 2006, 08:00:16]

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