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Russia, Pakistan and others on defensive following release of 'Panama Papers'

Public figures from around the world have reacted to the leak, which exposes a vast network of offshore entities. 12 current and former leaders are among those named in the trove of documents.

Leaders around the world have begun to react to the leak, and most of them, predictably, have struck a defensive tone.

Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and the family of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were among those who defended themselves after being named in the "Panama Papers," a

giant leak of offshore fianancial records

first published by German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" on Sunday.

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson

PM Gunnlaugsson walked out on an interview when confronted by the leak

For Gunnlaugsson, who was elected prime minister in 2013, the revelation came in one of the most awkward ways imaginable.

During a television interview for Swedish channel SVT, Gunnlaugsson was asked if he'd ever had illicit dealings with an offshore company.

"As I say, my assets have always been on the table," said Gunnlaugsson, growing visibly uncomfortable.

When the journalist then confronted the prime minister about his connections to a company called Wintris, Gunnlaugsson denied knowledge of it and walked out of the interview. Since then, pressure has been mounting in Iceland for him to resign, including from former Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir.

'There is nothing wrong with it'

The family of Sharif denied any wrongdoing after the leak revealed that several of his children own London real estate through offshore firms.

Sharif's son Hussain told a Pakistani broadcaster that his family had done nothing illegal.

"Those apartments are ours and those offshore companies are also ours," he said. "There is nothing wrong with it and I have never concealed them, nor do I need to do that."

Opposition leader Imran Khan, however, referred to the revelations as "vindication."

'Attacks' on Russia

Russland Sergej Roldugin mit Wladimir Putin und Dmitri Medwedew

The Kremlin has called the 'Panama Papers' an attack on Russia

Officials in the Russian government also responded to the leak, which named people with close ties to President Vladimir Putin as having prospered from various shadow companies.

Irina Yarovaya, head of the anti-corruption committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, was quoted by a state news agency as likening the leak's "informational attacks" to "poison" in attempt to "demoralize" Russia.

The Kremlin also dismissed the leak. "Putin, Russia, our country, our stability and the upcoming elections are the main target, specifically to destabilize the situation," a spokesperson told reporters on Monday.

French President Francois Hollande, on the other hand, praised the efforts of whistleblowers.

"All the information revealed will lead to investigations brought by the tax authorities and to legal proceedings," Hollande said.

blc/jil (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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