Vladimir Putin suggests PM may have called referendum 'to blackmail Europe'


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

Politicians including Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond have speculated that Putin would relish a Brexit as a way of weakening the European Union and allowing Russia greater scope to reassert itself.

Asked what his views on the looming vote are, Putin suggested that the Prime Minister had called the referendum to "scare" Europe.

Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech at a Remain campaign event in his Witney constituency in Oxfordshire, where he warned that a vote to leave the European Union could tip the British economy back into recession
(Will Oliver/PA)

Speaking in St Petersburg, Putin said: "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?"

But Putin said that while he has his own views on Brexit, the vote is "none of our business - it is the business of the people of the UK".