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Russia's Putin calls Panama Papers a western media disinformation campaign

In his first comments on the document leaks, Putin has denied any involvement in corruption. Although not directly mentioned in the documents, media outlets have sought to implicate Putin through his associates.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused western media outlets of pushing the story he was involved in corruption even though his name was not listed in the so-called Panama Papers.

"Our opponents are above all concerned by the unity and consolidation of the Russian nation, our multinational Russian people. They are attempting to rock us from within, to make us more obedient," he said. "So they've created an information product."

The documents published this week by more than 100

media outlets involved in analyzing the leak of 11.5 million documents

from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca have identified a close friend of Putin's, musician Sergei Roldugin, as the owner of $2 billion (1.75 billion euros) in offshore assets.

Putin said he was proud of Roldugin for the work he has done to support the arts and culture in Russia and pointed to a US-led disinformation campaign to weaken Russia.

Media outlets have suggested offshore arrangements and favorable loans helped people close to Putin get rich, and that the president himself hid funds through associates and offshore accounts.

Putin, however, is not directly named in the Panama Papers. On Wednesday, Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said this shows the president's involvement is a "product of the imagination."

The leaked documents were obtained by German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung" from an anonymous source and shared with more than 100 media outlets through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Among the funders of the ICIJ is billionaire George Soros' Open Society Foundation, which

Russia had labeled an "undesirable organization"

and banned from the country last year. Russia has accused Soros-financed civil society groups of being a front for a potential "colored revolution."

The Panama Papers have exposed the confidential offshore shell companies of world leaders, celebrities, sports stars and businesses.

The revelations forced

Iceland's prime minister to step down

and led to multiple probes around the globe.

Although they provide confidentiality and are not illegal,

offshore shell companies

may be used for tax evasion, money laundering and hiding stolen funds or the wealth of politicians.

Nobody knows Putin's wealth, but western media outlets have speculated he could be worth between $40 and $70 billion, which would make him one of the top ten wealthiest people in the world and the world's richest leader.

cw/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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