The much-criticised 'Kremlin list' prepared by the US treasury department is designed to undermine the Russian electoral process, according to a senior Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) figure.
The list was issued at the end of January and purported to show Russian oligarchs who had made money corruptly and could be targeted with sanctions. However, it was shown to have been compiled from an all-inclusive list of rich Russians compiled from Forbes magazine, along with the names of some Kremlin officials.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the ROC's department of eternal relations and the Church's 'foreign secretary', told Rossiya-24 TV the list was an attempt to influence Russian elections.
According to Interfax, he said: 'Surely, it is direct interference in the electoral process. (...) Surely, it is direct pressure on Russian authorities and wish to undermine the authorities.'
He said the attempt would not succeed, adding: 'People will go to elections, and each of them will make the choice as their conscience tells them.'
Hilarion's comments are to be seen against the background of continuing investigations into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians during the run-up to the election last year; US intelligence agencies concluded Russia had taken active steps to disrupt the US presidential election.
The issue has dogged President Trump since his inauguration and may see the president interviewed by special counsel Robert S Mueller.