Russia Putin: Kremlin accuses US of meddling in election

Women pass a Putin election poster in St Petersburg, Russia, 12 JanuaryImage copyright

Image caption

Vladimir Putin seems certain to win in March after an opposition leader was barred from standing

An expected US report that could sanction Kremlin-linked oligarchs is an attempt to influence Russia’s March presidential election, Moscow has said.

The US treasury report is expected to detail the closeness of senior Russian political figures and oligarchs to President Vladimir Putin, who is standing for re-election.

US officials accuse Russia of meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Kremlin representatives have repeatedly denied the allegations.

Mr Putin’s spokesman said the forthcoming report would be analysed.

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Last year, US President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions on Russia but he accused Congress of overreaching itself and preventing him from easing penalties on Russia in the future.

The US president has repeatedly rejected any allegations that his campaign staff colluded with Russia to help him defeat Hillary Clinton at the November 2016 presidential election.

The allegations voiced by the US intelligence community are currently being investigated by Congress and a special investigator.

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So what did Mr Putin’s spokesman say?

Dmitry Peskov said the US report was a “direct and obvious attempt to influence the elections” on 18 March.

However, he added that he was sure the list would not affect the vote.

The Kremlin has pledged to help limit further damage to Russian oligarchs and businesses that could be on the list.

Last year, President Putin reportedly met top businessmen behind closed doors to discuss the issue.

Last week, the boss of Russia’s VTB bank, Andrei Kostin, told the Financial Times that if the US slapped more economic sanctions against Russia it would be “a declaration of war”.

Image Copyright @BBCSteveR

Twitter post by @BBCSteveR: Today's Russian papers reflect the nervousness in Moscow ahead of the US Treasury publishing a list of Russian oligarchs  their family members with close links to Vladimir Putin ( the sources of their income) Image Copyright @BBCSteveR

Mr Putin is seen as the clear favourite to win the March elections.

His main opposition rival, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from standing in the race. He was briefly detained during a protest rally on Sunday.

What do we know about the US report?

The US treasury department has to finalise the document on Monday, after which it is expected to hand the report over to Congress.

It is not known whether the names of those on the list will be publicly revealed or kept secret or indeed how many people and entities are on the list.

Being on the list does not automatically trigger sanctions but such penalties could be activated any time later by the US.

What about previous anti-Russian sanctions?

The US first imposed penalties in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in March 2014 after an unrecognised referendum on self-determination.

Together with the EU, the US later extended sanctions over Russia’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Russia denies sending troops and arming separatist rebels but says Russian volunteers have been helping the rebels.

Last week, the US treasury imposed additional sanctions against 21 individuals and 19 individuals in connection with the Ukrainian crisis.

The US and Russia have also been at loggerheads on other major crises, including Syria, Iran and North Korea.