MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin said Thursday Russia meets its energy export commitments in full, and does not use oil and gas as tools for political influence.
Russia, which has widely diverging natural gas prices and oil duties in place for former Soviet states, has been widely accused in the West of using energy exports to secure political compliance among its neighbors, in particular Ukraine and Belarus.
"An argument is being imposed on us that Russia allegedly uses economic levers to attain its ends in international politics. This is not true. Russia has been meeting all of its obligations in full, and will continue to do so in the future," Putin told a Kremlin news conference.
However, Russia should not subsidize other countries, he said.
Moscow's moves to push natural gas rates up to international market levels has caused major upsets in relations with Ukraine and Belarus, which are also the main transit countries for Russia's energy exports to Europe.
Putin said national interests are a priority in Moscow's relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of former Soviet republics.
"It is very simple to enjoy praise when you are betraying national interests, but building pragmatic relations and defending one's interests is not always possible without tensions," he said in an apparent reference to pro-Western leaders that have come into power in recent years in Georgia and Ukraine, and pushed for EU and NATO membership and a reduced influence from Russia.
However, he did not agree with the view that Russia had surrounded itself with "a ring of ill-wishers" by its foreign policy.