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Senior U.S. senator says Putin acting like 'schoolyard bully'

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York speaks at the Temple Emanu-El during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in New York April 7, 2013
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York speaks at the Temple Emanu-El during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in New York April 7, 2013

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Democratic senator said on Sunday that the U.S.-Russia relationship had become "poisonous" and urged President Barack Obama to consider moving next month's Group of 20 summit away from the Russian city of St. Petersburg.

Charles Schumer, the U.S. Senate's third ranking Democrat and a close Obama ally, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to antagonize the United States by granting American fugitive Edward Snowden asylum for one year.

"President Putin is behaving like a schoolyard bully," Schumer said on the CBS television talk show "Face the Nation." "In my experience, I've learned unless you stand up to that bully, they ask for more and more and more."

He said Obama should cancel plans to meet Putin in Moscow for a bilateral summit next month that was expected take place during the U.S. president's trip to Russia for the G20 gathering.

Schumer said he also would call on Obama to "urge our allies, if it were possible," to try to move the G20 summit from St. Petersburg to another country.

The White House has left unclear whether Obama would stop in Moscow after Russia granted asylum to Snowden, a former intelligence contractor wanted in the United States for leaking details of government surveillance programs.

Schumer said that because of the Snowden matter, "the relationship between the United States and Russia ... is more poisonous than at any time since the Cold War."

Also speaking on CBS, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan said he agreed with Schumer that there should be consequences for Russia's actions.

Ryan, a former vice presidential candidate and influential voice within his party, accused the Obama administration of appeasement with its policy, known as the "reset," begun in 2009, of trying to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the ABC program "This Week" that Russia's actions were disappointing.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Bill Trott)

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