World Bulletin/News Desk
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that trust between Russia and the United States had been damaged before the crisis in Ukraine, but that he wanted to restore their cooperation.
"To a certain extent trust has been lost, but we do not think we are to blame," Putin said in a televised phone-in with the nation.
He said it was U.S. hypocrisy that had brought relations to their worst level since the Cold War: "The United States can act in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya but Russia is not allowed to defend its interests."
The two countries have been at odds over a range of issues, from U.S. missile defence plans to NATO expansion and the civil war in Syria. To improve ties, Putin said, the United States should respect others' interests and international law.
"I want to emphasize once again, Russia is interested in growing relations with the United States and will do everything to ensure that this confidence is restored," he said.
The United States has imposed sanctions against some Russians to punish Moscow for the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and says it is ready to adopt harsher measures if Russia intervenes further to destabilise Ukraine.
Putin also accused NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in his previous role as Danish prime minister, of secretly taping and leaking a private conversation between them to the press.
"I could not believe my eyes and ears ... what kind of trust can there be after such incidents?" he said. But he added that Moscow was not interested in souring ties with Europe, and that he hoped the feeling was reciprocated.
"We do not intend to spoil the relations between Russia and Europe and hope that this is not part of our European partners' plans," Putin said.
No interest in new "Iron Curtain"
"The Iron Curtain is a Soviet invention," Putin said during a televised call-in with the nation. "We have no intention of closing off our country and our society from anyone."
When asked whether he would be willing to remain president for life, Putin said: "No."