April 19 - Russian President Putin welcomes NATO's selection of former Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg as new head, says better ties with the West are possible. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes NATO's selection of former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. In an interview with state-run TV, Putin indicated that the appointment of Stoltenberg, who takes over in October, could help ties. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "We have very good relations, including personal relations. This is a very serious, responsible person. But let's see how he will develop relations in his new capacity." Putin says there's no reason why relations between Russia and the West can not improve. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "This does not depend on us. Or rather not only on us. This depends on our partners. I think there is nothing that would hinder a normalization and normal cooperation." Putin also rejects criticism of Crimea's referendum. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "I know it and I talked about it before, but if we are being honest and objective, then it will be clear to everyone that it is impossible to force people from their houses, their apartments under a gun and make them go to a polling station to vote. The turnout was 83 percent." Putin did not name any specific measures that the West should take to improve ties but his spokesman indicated Friday that a lack of respect from the West was a major factor, saying it was treating Russia like a "guilty schoolboy."