Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a telephone conversation with Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of so-called Donetsk People's Republic, and Igor Plotnitsky, the head of the so-called Lugansk People's Republic at the Kremlin in Moscow.
MOSCOW - The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed claims by Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov that President Vladimir Putin ordered a state-sponsored doping programme, calling them baseless "slander."
"This is yet more slander which doesn&39;t have a single piece of evidence to support it," Putin&39;s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists following allegations made by Rodchenkov to German public broadcaster ARD.
The ARD report on Monday quoted Rodchenkov, the source of revelations on Moscow&39;s state-sponsored doping, as saying that orders came from the Russian leader who was kept informed through former sports minister Vitaly Mutko.
"Of course it came all the way from the top, from the president," Rodchenkov claimed. "Because only the president can deploy the domestic secret service FSB for such a special task."
Rodchenkov is the former head of Moscow&39;s anti-doping laboratory who fled to the United States in 2016 following the sudden death of two senior officials from Russia&39;s anti-doping agency. He is now wanted in Russia and Peskov painted him as an "odious" criminal.
"Mr. Rodchenkov is a wanted man, he is under investigation," Peskov said. "He is an odious individual who has problems with the law... he clearly cannot be treated as a source with any credibility."
"There is lack of readiness and willingness to use any other sources to confirm this information," Peskov said of the German report.
Russia has been banned from taking part at the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics although individual athletes who prove themselves to be clean can compete under strict conditions and under a neutral flag.
Russia was suspended in August 2016 following revelations of widespread state-sponsored doping uncovered in a report by Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Neither WADA nor the International Olympic Committee have linked Putin to the conspiracy, only pointing to the sports ministry and slapping lifetime Olympic bans on Nagornikh and Mutko.