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Putin says criticism "well-meaning"

SLOVAK-Russian ties have remained good following Slovakia's European Union accession, said Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of his summit meeting with US President George Bush in Bratislava on February 23.

Speaking on Slovak Radio (SRo), he praised the increasing bilateral economic cooperation and mutual trade between Russia and Slovakia, the news agency TASR reported.

The Russian president added that he saw room for more cooperation in developing state-of-the-art technologies, and the modernization of military aviation equipment.

Putin has acknowledged that both he and George Bush will touch on sensitive topics at the summit.

These include respect for human rights and the war in Iraq, which Russia blames on the US, as well as Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes.

As for objections to the lack of democracy in Russia, Putin said that 14 years ago Russia chose democracy for its own sake and not in order to please the rest of the world.

"We consider such comments well-meaning - even if a bit critical, opinion from the outside will help rather than harm us," Putin said.

He sees his Bratislava meeting with Bush as important, mainly in that it will allow them to set a common agenda for the future.

Compiled by Spectator staff from press reports

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