Source AP ©

Putin alleges growth in foreign funding for meddling in Russian internal affairs

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday decried an alleged increase in foreign funding for interference in Russia's affairs, an accusation that officials have made repeatedly in recent months as the county approaches parliamentary and presidential elections.

"There is a growth in the flow of money from abroad for direct interference in our internal affairs," Putin said in his annual state of the nation address, delivered to the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

"There are those who, skillfully using pseudo-democratic rhetoric, would like to return to the recent past - some to loot the country's national riches, to rob the people and the state; others to strip us of economic and political independence," Putin said.

Putin did not cite specific countries as sources of the funding, but the comments echoed recent Russian official complaints against U.S. funding of democracy-promoting organizations in Russia.

Officials have repeatedly alleged that such funding aims to provoke mass opposition protests such as those that helped propel pro-Western leaders into power in neighboring Georgia and Ukraine in recent years.

Police harshly cracked down on a series of opposition protest marches this year, beating some demonstrators and detaining hundreds.