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Putin criticizes U.S. trade controls on Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Thursday said the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment that tied U.S. trade relations to emigration rights for religious minorities was an anachronism and hindered Russia's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Putin's criticisms followed comments by the U.S. trade envoy that the Washington backed Russia's membership of the trade body and wanted to resolve outstanding bilateral issues.

Russia is the largest economy outside the 153-member trade organization that mediates commercial disputes and opens up trade between member states.

"Accession to the WTO remains our strategic goal, but we have an impression that for some unknown reasons some countries, including the United States, are hindering our accession to the WTO," said Putin during an annual question-and-answer session with Russian citizens.

Speaking Wednesday, before Putin's comments, the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters that the United States backed Russian entry.

"We're prepared to work diligently with them so that we can hasten their accession into the WTO," he said, during a WTO conference in Geneva.

When Russia proposed entering the trade body as a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, neither the United States nor the WTO knew how this could work legally, he said.

"I won't comment on the customs union. We're thrilled that Russia's decided to move forward with their individual application on which we're going to work with them to resolve our outstanding bilateral issues," Kirk said.

(Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Additional reporting by Jonathan Lynn in Geneva; Editing by Michael Stott)