Putin
Picture: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a live broadcast nationwide call-in in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016.Reuters

United States officials were behind the Panama Papers leak as the German newspaper that published the leaked information on offshore accounts belonged to U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

Putin's comment came at the annual question-and-answer phone-in marathon, also known as direct line, where he responds to questions asked by Russian citizens, Reuters reported. The media coverage on the leak was to "sow doubts about individuals," Putin said while calling the media reports "provocations."

"Who does it - these provocations. We know that there is a staff of American official institutions?" TASS Russian News Agency quoted the Russian president as saying.

"We know that members of the American intelligence community are involved. The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung is owned by a holding company, and that holding is owned by the American financial company Goldman Sachs. The closer we get to the elections the more such attacks we will see," the Telegraph UK quoted Putin as saying.

The leaked documents from Panamian law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed that some of the close associates of Putin have made money through offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion, the Guardian reported. His family reportedly gained from Putin's friends' money, the documents suggest.

Other highlights of Putin's phone-in marathon (Source: Reuters)

  • "We should not be printing money, we should be changing the structure of the economy."
  • "(Last year) gross domestic product declined 3.7 percent. This year the government expects the economy to continue to decline slightly. But only about 0.3 percent. Next year we expect a 1.4 percent growth. For sure, it is difficult to feel the bottom."
  • "A lot of resources are being spent inappropriately. This should be changed."
  • "The rise in food is substantial. To a certain extent the rise in food prices is a man-made result of measures taken to develop the agricultural sector in condition of Western sanctions. The rise in food prices is a temporary phenomenon. Prices will stabilise."
  • Answering to questions on Syria, Putin said the Russian forces "left the Syrian army in a position where...it can carry out serious offensive operations." "We are monitoring closely and will do everything to ensure the situation does not worsen."

This was Putin's 14th direct line with the Russians. More than 2.3 million questions, including about 1.5 million calls, 400 thousand SMS, along with over 70 thousand complaints through social network site "VKontakte," were received for the phone-in marathon.

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