Putin says West’s actions increased energy prices

By Gleb Bryanski

MOSCOW, June 7 (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the West was largely responsible for high energy prices, citing unrest in North Africa and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“It is not we who are creating conditions that lead to price growth in global markets,” said Putin, who has repeatedly accused the United States and its allies of undermining global stability over the past decade.

“Who is doing North Africa? Us? No. Who is doing Iraq? Us? No? … We have nothing to do with it,” Putin said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Azarov, who expressed dissatisfaction at the prices Ukraine pays for Russian gas.

At a news conference with Azarov, Putin defended the pricing mechanisms used in existing agreements with Ukraine and said resource-rich Russia, which relies heavily on energy exports, was not setting global prices. He also lashed out at speculators.

“Is it we who speculate on the market, where only 12 percent of trade is physical volumes (and) the rest is just paper?”

As president in 2003, Putin vehemently opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, where Russia had stakes in oil fields.

He has also been a vocal critic of the NATO-led air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, and likened the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorised them to a “medieval call for crusades”.

Brent crude has stayed above $100 a barrel since February. Oil prices rose to 2-1/2 year highs earlier this year as the civil war in Libya cut exports and unrest spread across the Arab world. Putin has criticised U.S. efforts to promote democracy abroad, accusing the United States of meddling in the internal affairs of Russia and other countries in order to advance its own geopolitical aims. (Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Andrew Roche)