MOSCOW, July 22 Alexei Kudrin, a former Russian
finance minister and loyal ally of President Vladimir Putin,
warned on Tuesday that anti-Western rhetoric during the
Ukrainian crisis could isolate the nation and derail its
In rare high-level criticism of growing Kremlin
conservatism, Kudrin said Moscow should not intervene militarily
in the rebellion in eastern Ukraine and expressed dismay that
Russians were as once again becoming adversaries of the West.
Surrounded by his top security advisers, Putin dismissed on
Tuesday Western criticism of Russia's role in Ukraine and vowed
to protect the economy from "external threats" and strengthen
its military muscle to counter moves by NATO in eastern Europe.
But Kudrin, who repaired state finances after the chaos of
the 1990s, told ITAR-TASS news agency that Russia risked taking
a dangerous path internationally.
"There are forces in the country who have long wanted to
distance us, who have wanted isolation, perhaps some kind of
self-reliance," he said. "All this has fallen onto fertile
ground and I'm just surprised at the scale of the anti-Western
rhetoric which has emerged here."
The United States and European Union imposed sanctions on
companies and people close to Putin after Russia annexed Crimea
from Ukraine in March.
The annexation strongly boosted Putin's popularity at home.
But relations with the West, already at their lowest since the
Cold War, dived yet further after a Malaysian airliner was shot
down over eastern Ukraine last week with the loss of 298 lives.
Washington says it has strong evidence of Russian complicity
in the disaster, which it believes was caused by a missile fired
from territory controlled by pro-Moscow rebels. In the growing
confrontation, the Kremlin has denied the accusations and blamed
the Ukrainian government.
"The political landscape in our country has changed
significantly," Kudrin, 53, told the state-run news agency. "We
have again become the West's adversaries."
Kudrin, who quit in 2011 in protest against rising military
spending, helped the state to amass more than $160 billion in
two funds that now serve as a contingency plan for a financial
crisis. Russian stocks and the currency spiralled down last week
after Washington imposed more sanctions on some top companies.
Kudrin, who now heads a group called The Committee for Civil
Initiatives, warned that businesses and ordinary people were
paying the price of the standoff. "Businesses want to work,
invest, build factories, trade," he said. "And business is very
concerned by what it hears on the radio or sees on the TV."
A further escalation of the Ukrainian conflict would bring
more sanctions that could cost ordinary Russians about a fifth
of their income, he warned, due to a falling rouble and rising
inflation. "Figuratively speaking, it is as if we agreed to give
up 15-20 percent of our salaries," he said.
More than $70 billion in capital flowed out of Russia in the
first half of this year.
"Russia in no way should interfere with military forces in
the situation in east Ukraine. This would cause uncontrolled
risks on both, the economic and political levels," Kudrin added.
European Union governments are to discuss a specific list of
possible new targets for sanctions on Thursday.
"I have serious concerns that the escalation of the conflict
around Ukraine will be followed by conclusions ... that we do
not need the world's best practices," said Kudrin. "Such an
attitude, of course, inhibits seriously the modernisation of
(Writing by Lidia Kelly; editing by David Stamp)