The West is exploiting the Ukraine conflict in a deliberate bid to force Vladimir Putin out of power, Moscow claims.
This is the real aim of US policy, but the attempt will backfire, warned former FSB secret service chief Sergei Stepashin, who preceded Putin as prime minister.
In an open letter to Barack Obama – amid a fragile ceasefire in Ukraine – he accused the US president of ‘propaganda’ in blaming Russia for the violence in Ukraine and claiming Moscow threatens its neighbours.
He said Mr Obama was ratcheting up sanctions to ‘isolate Russia and generate a new Cold War’, aiming to hurt the country’s economy to the extent that Putin is forced out.
‘It is perfectly obvious that you are preparing grounds to loudly state your main goal: “Putin should resign”,’ he said.
Stepashin, now head of the Russian government’s accounts chamber, claimed Putin had outplayed a ‘hurt’ Mr Obama over Syria, preventing Western military intervention, and with his peace plan had caused the US president ‘to lose face’ in Ukraine.
He added the White House was seeking to pull Europe into a conflict there, showing Mr Obama to be a ‘hawk who dresses up as a peacekeeper and can be called the father of the new Cold War’.
It comes as Russia faces claims from Amnesty International that it lied to the world in denying its troops and weaponry were supporting rebels in Ukraine.
The human rights group accuses Putin’s forces of backing militias ‘responsible for war crimes’.
It produced satellite images to back its case and ‘documented incidents of indiscriminate shelling, abductions, torture and killings’ by Moscow’s supporters.
Moscow has angrily denied its forces were deployed in Ukraine.
Last night it vowed to hit back against the EU if a new list of sanctions – which target Russian officials as well as the Kremlin’s oil and gas interests – is approved this week, saying there would ‘undoubtedly be a reaction’.
And Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made clear that the ceasefire may not hold.
‘I am ready to fight for my country and even to die for it,’ he said.