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Putin: Cameron may have called EU referendum to 'blackmail Europe'

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Credit: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that David Cameron may have called a referendum on the European Union "to blackmail Europe" - but said the decision is "the business of the people of the UK".

President Putin added that while he had his own opinion on whether the UK should stay in the EU, he would refrain from expressing it.

I don't think this is very proper to engage Russia in all the problems, even if we are not involved in it, to make Russia a scarecrow. Civilised people do not do things this way.

As for the Prime Minister of the UK, there is a great problem with Brexit, why did he initiate this vote in the first place? Why did he do that? So he wanted to blackmail Europe or to scare someone, what was the goal if he was against?

I want to say it is none of our business, it is the business of the people of the UK. I have my own opinion on this matter, I cannot talk about the result yet - no one knows about the result yet, I think it is 50-50 with a certain margin of error.

– Russian President Vladimir Putin

The Russian president singled out controversial EU fishing laws as what he perceived to be a particular bone of contention for some Britons.

Politicians including Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond - who is campaigning to remain - have speculated that President Putin would relish a Brexit as a way of weakening the EU and allowing Russia greater scope to reassert itself.

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