President Vladimir Putin says the United States is seeking to instigate trouble at Russia’s upcoming presidential vote in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
“In response to our alleged interference in their election, they want to create problems for the election of the president of Russia,” Putin told factory workers in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk on Thursday.
Putin went onto say that allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia also seemed to be aimed at disrupting Russia’s presidential vote in March.
“Here is what worries me: the Olympics start in February, and when are our presidential elections? In March,” Putin added, noting, “There is a strong suspicion that this is all happening in order to create a situation useful to some, one of disappointment for sports followers and sportsmen in which the state allegedly participated in violations.”
The allegations have seen several Russian athletes banned ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Russia’s Ski Federation announced on Thursday that four Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of doping by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Last year, an explosive report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia from 2011 to 2015.
Putin vehemently denied any state-sponsored system of doping in Russia. “Russia never had and, I hope, will never have a system of state doping of which we are being accused.”
Putin made the remarks ahead of a trip to Vietnam, where he will take part in a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and is expected to meet US President Donald Trump.
Bilateral ties between the US and Russia have plummeted as a Washington probe has accused Trump’s former campaign aides of secretly meeting Kremlin-connected officials.
Senior officials in Moscow have vehemently denied allegations of interfering in last year’s US election that brought Trump to power.
Trump, too, has repeatedly denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and has condemned the investigations.
Back in January, American intelligence agencies claimed that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to try to help Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The intelligence agencies claimed Moscow’s interference included a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit Clinton’s campaign.
US special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed by the US Justice Department, is tasked with investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the election.