AFP MOSCOW (AFP-Jiji) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the United States of inventing doping allegations against Russian athletes to influence next year’s presidential election, which he is widely expected to contest and win.
“In response to our alleged interference in their election, they want to create problems for the election of the president of Russia,” Putin said in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk.
Putin has not said whether he will contest the March election but few analysts say they believe he will pass up the chance to extend his Kremlin term to 2024.
“Here is what worries me: The Olympics start in February, and when are our presidential elections? In March,” Putin told workers during a visit to a factory.
“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 Russian president said.
Putin spoke ahead of a trip to Vietnam, where he will take part in an APEC summit and is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump.
Relations between Russia and the United States have plummeted as a Washington probe has accused Trump’s former campaign aides of secretly meeting Kremlin-connected officials.
Russia has denied allegations of interfering in the U.S. election last year that brought Trump to power.
Putin spoke after the Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation announced on Thursday that four Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of doping by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).