British PM Cameron holding Brexit vote 'to blackmail' Europe, says Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 20th St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 20th St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17.PHOTO: EPA

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron is holding a referendum on European Union membership to "blackmail" and "scare" Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested on Friday (June 17).

"Why has he set up this referendum? To blackmail Europe? Or to scare it? What is the purpose if he himself is against" Britain leaving the European Union, Putin said during a meeting with representatives of news agencies, including Agence France-Presse.

"It's not our business, it is the business of the British people. I have my opinion on the subject but I will not speak about it in advance," he added, saying it was impossible to say what the result would be. "Who can predict it? No one can predict (...) I think it would be inappropriate for me to do that."

Britons vote on June 23 in a neck-and-neck referendum on whether to stay or leave the European Union. Campaigning remains suspended on Saturday, two days after the murder of pro-EU lawmaker Jo Cox.

"Some experts say a Brexit will be to the detriment of Europe. But others say that the EU will be more stable," Mr Putin added, pointing to the example of British fishermen.

"They explain how hard it is to live with the restrictions on fishing. But there are advantages in other sectors," he said.

"If you consider all these things, it's very complicated" to choose, he added.