Russia threatened Tuesday to release a recording of a disputed conversation, putting the EU on the spot over allegations that President Vladimir Putin threatened he could capture Kiev in two weeks.
Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper reported Monday a summary of a debate at last weekend’s EU summit in which European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso recounted his telephone conversation with Putin.
The paper said the Kremlin strongman declined to answer questions about Russian troops operating in Ukraine and Barroso quoted Putin as threatening: “If I wanted I could take Kiev in two weeks.”
A Putin aide said Tuesday that the comments taken out of context. “Whether these words were said or not I believe the quote that you cite has been taken out of context and had a completely different meaning,” aide Yuri Ushakov told journalists.
But a European Commission spokesman later said “we have nothing to add” to a Friday statement on the phone call, in which the conversation was described as “a very frank exchange of views”. That didn’t satisfy the Kremlin.
Russia’s EU ambassador Vladimir Chizov has now written to Barroso, warning it will release a recording of the talk to “clear up misunderstandings” over the call, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
“...in order to clear up misunderstandings we are ready to release the contents (of the call) if you don’t inform us of your disagreement within two days,” said the letter, a copy of which Interfax obtained.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund says Ukraine will need billions of dollars in additional support if the fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east persists.
In its first in-depth assessment since granting the country a $17 billion bailout program in March, the IMF said Tuesday “risks loom large” for the country’s economy.
It says the bailout program already faces a $3.5-billion funding shortfall through 2015, with the economy forecast to shrink by 6.5 %this year.