Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the United States of trying to interfere with Russia’s presidential campaign in retaliation for what the Kremlin dismisses as unfounded U.S. allegations that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. On the eve of a possible meeting with President Trump at an economic forum in Vietnam, Putin suggested that the United States is pressing for the disqualification of Russian athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics as a way of creating discontent with his tenure as president. The International Olympic Committee recently banned six Russian cross-country skiers, including two 2014 Olympic medalists, from future competition in an ongoing doping investigation based on a damning 2016 report. With fewer than 100 days before the beginning of the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, the IOC has still not made a decision about whether to let the country that hosted the 2014 Games participate.
“What worries me is that the Olympic Games are due to start in February, and when is our presidential election? In March,” Putin told workers at a Ural Mountains factory, according to Russian news agencies. “There are very strong suspicions that all that is done because someone needs to create an atmosphere of discontent among sports fans and athletes over the state’s alleged involvement in violations and responsibility for it.”
The United States, he said, “wants to create problems in the Russian presidential election in response to our alleged interference in theirs.”