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The Times: Blair talks of ‘deep freeze’ after tense encounter with Putin

June 9, 2007
Philip Webster and David Charter in Heiligendamm

Tony Blair told Vladimir Putin yesterday that the world was becoming more and more afraid of Russia’s behaviour at home and abroad.

And as he left his last G8 summit in Germany Mr Blair predicted a lengthy period of deep freeze in relations between Russia and the West.

The two men, who have been sparring with each other from a distance for weeks, had a tense, hour-long encounter in the Caroline Room at the Kempinski Grand Hotel. Mr Blair emerged alone, a fixed smile on his face.

But when he spoke to reporters later at Rostock airport shortly before flying home he did not attempt to disguise that it had been a hard encounter or that he had been frustrated by the outcome.

He had gone into the meeting determined to speak his mind, knowing that it was the last time he would have to deal with Mr Putin but anxious to get a strong message across.

Aides said that as it was their last encounter there was no need for false bonhomie. As usual, photographers went into the room to record the event but Mr Blair asked them to leave swiftly, keen to get on with the serious business of their final chat.

Mr Blair raised the murder of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Mr Putin’s threats to train missiles on Europe and the treatment of international companies in Russia, particularly BP.

The atmosphere at a personal level was “cordial”, he said. “But there are real issues and I do not think they will be resolved any time soon.”

He added: “It matters that we start trying to resolve some of these outstanding matters but in the end this is a question of actions rather than words.”

Mr Blair said that Mr Putin had put his case that Russia was not being treated properly by the West, particularly America. “I set out our view that people are becoming increasingly worried about what is happening in Russia today and the external policy of Russia.”

Allowing his frustration to show through, Mr Blair added: “It was a very frank discussion but what will come out of it is another matter.”

Mr Blair, who had a good relationship with Mr Putin in the early days of his presidency, has grown increasingly sceptical about him and believes that Russia’s democratic reforms have gone into reverse. Relations with Russia will be one of Gordon Brown’s main foreign policy headaches.

Mr Blair told Mr Putin that Russia’s behaviour would decide how much political and commercial business it would be able to do with the rest of the world. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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