A top Russian anti-corruption official condemned Western media "attacks" on Monday, following reports that reputed members of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle used secret offshore deals to hide billions of dollars.
Putin was not directly named in the reported massive leak of information from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, and the alleged secret deals did not appear illegal. However, the reports speculated that the deals enabled Putin's confidants to hide fortunes made possible through his patronage.
"The number of these informational attacks against the president of Russia and the simplicity of their fabricated subjects are like a needle injecting poison numerous times in the hope that at least one dose will work," Irina Yarovaya, head of the anti-corruption committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
"Will these injections of poison ever end? Of course not!" Yarovaya added. "Those behind these attacks have increased their frequency, understanding that they have not yet managed to demoralize our society and incite tensions ahead of the elections."
Russia is due to elect members of parliament and certain regional officials in September.
Yarovaya's sentiment echoed earlier comments by Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who warned last week that a number of media outlets were planning to smear Putin with dishonest allegations.
Peskov said the Kremlin's press service had recently received numerous questions comparable to an interrogation.
"Is it true that your [Putin's] accumulated wealth amounts to more than 40 billion dollars? Is it true that you own enormous residences and other multimillion-dollar assets? Is it true that when you were young you used to hang out on the streets of Leningrad, drinking and getting into fights?" Peskov cited the inquiries as saying, in comments carried by TASS.
Peskov said some of the inquiries were made by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which on Sunday participated in the release of the so-called Panama Papers, disclosing the activities of 214,000 purported shell companies.
The documents, obtained by the Munich-based daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, were also shared with German state broadcaster ARD, the BBC and the London-based newspaper The Guardian.
Sueddeutsche said the law firm's employee who leaked the data said he was risking his life. The employee was not identified in the report.
"2.6 terabytes of data, 11.5 millions documents, and 214,000 shell companies: The Panama Papers are the largest data leak journalists have ever worked with," Sueddeutsche tweeted Sunday.
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