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Russia's Putin says U.S. supports opposition protesters

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the new studio complex of television channel 'Russia Today' in Moscow June 11, 2
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the new studio complex of television channel 'Russia Today' in Moscow June 11, 2

By Alexei Anishchuk and Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused U.S. diplomats of interfering in Russian politics by supporting opposition demonstrators, a day before a planned protest march in Moscow.

Putin's complaint came in remarks in which he criticized U.S. actions ranging from the treatment of Native Americans to the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, but said Russia and the United States had common interests and should cooperate.

"Our diplomatic service does not cooperate actively with Occupy Wall Street, but your diplomatic service interacts actively with (Russian opposition figures) and directly supports them," Putin said, referring to the United States.

"This is not right, because diplomatic services should be building relations between states and not getting involved in their internal political affairs," he told Russia's English-language state channel RT.

The accusation came a day before opposition activists plan to march in Moscow against what they say is a clampdown on dissent in Putin's third presidential term, which began in May 2012.

Since Putin's return to the Kremlin, relations with the United States have been strained over issues including Moscow's restrictions on foreign-funded civic groups and the ejection of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Both the Kremlin and the White House have signaled they want ties to improve. Russia and the United States are trying to convene an international conference that would bring the Syrian government and its opponents together to talk peace.

Putin said that unlike during the Cold War, Russia and the United States had no ideological differences, but did have cultural differences.

Putin mentioned the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans and blacks, and said Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would not have dropped an atom bomb on Germany in 1945.

"In 1941-42, when it was a question of life or death for the (Soviet) state, maybe he would have used it if he had it. But in 1945, when the enemy had essentially surrendered and had no chance, I very much doubt it," Putin said.

"But the Americans used it against Japan, which was losing -against a non-nuclear state, by the way."

But he said: "It's no coincidence that Russia and the United States have united at critical periods in modern history - in World War One and World War Two. We were opposing one another, but when the chips were down we came together.

"There is something that unites us, some fundamental interests that unite us."

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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