Kremlin accuses group of foreign journalists of planning smear campaign against Vladimir Putin before elections
Mar 29, 2016 12:57 AM EDT
The Kremlin has warned of an alleged plan to orchestrate an "information attack" against Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to besmirch his reputation in time for the upcoming elections. Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov laid blame on international journalists who are reportedly behind the plot.
"Some public organisations, non-governmental organisations, security services of foreign countries and certain media have joined an election campaign in our country before the start of said campaign," Peskov told reporters Monday, The Guardian reported.
Peskov added that this group of reporters, revealed to be Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), "is seeking to influence the country and aim to "discredit President Putin."
The ICIJ have reportedly been researching and asking questions about Putin's personal life, particularly information about his family, childhood friends and alliances with prominent business figures Yuri Kovalchuk and Arkady Rotenberg.
"They are repeating themselves. 'Is it true that the amount of your personal accumulated wealth is about US$40 billion?' 'Is it true that you possess gigantic residences, mega-yachts and other assets?' Dmitry Peskov said, as quoted by RT.
The Kremlin also said that "representatives of other organizations and services" may also be part of the planned smear campaign.
ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle admitted that they have sent questions to Russian authorities, but declined to comment on whether it was part of an "outspokenly masterminded campaign" as Dmitry Peskov presumed it to be.
"Yes, we are the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and we have requested comments from the Russian authorities as part of the ongoing investigation. We will publish shortly," Ryle told Tass.
Russia will hold parliamentary elections this September, but critics suggest that Kremlin might manipulate the results to secure a re-election for Vladimir Putin. Authorities assured that they have all available legal means, locally and internationally, to protect the honor and dignity of President Putin from attacks.