MOSCOW: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that a decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week to ban the Russian team from competing at next year's Winter Olympics had been deliberately taken to sour the pre-election mood.
Medvedev was referring to a March presidential election in which incumbent Vladimir Putin is standing for re-election.
"This is politics," said Medvedev, in comments broadcast on state TV.
"The decision was made in the run-up to the presidential elections in our country, aiming to create a certain mood in our society. Abroad, they understand very well the importance attached in our country to high achievement sports. For millions of our people, the decision was a heavy blow."
Medvedev, addressing the government, said that allegations that Russia had run a state-sponsored doping programme in sport were "an outright lie."
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh/Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)