Turkey’s main opposition candidate has accused Russia of interfering in the country’s elections days before the crucial vote.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is challenging Turkey’s longtime leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sunday’s presidential ballot, said “foreign hackers” recruited by his rival are preparing deepfakes – manipulated videos and soundbites – aimed at discrediting the opposition days before the election.
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“Dear Russian friends … you are behind the montages, conspiracies, deepfake content and tapes that were exposed in this country,” he said on Thursday without explaining why he was blaming Russia.
“If you want our friendship after May 15, get your hands off the Turkish state,” the main opposition alliance’s candidate added in tweets written in Turkish and Russian.
The allegations came hours after a third-party candidate dropped out of the race after being targeted by an online smear campaign.
On Friday, Kilicdaroglu told the Reuters news agency his party has evidence of Russia’s for responsibility for the release of “deep fake” online content.
Moscow rejects claims
In response to Kilicdaroglu’s claims, Kremlin on Friday denied it was meddling in Turkey’s presidential election campaign.
“We strongly reject such statements,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“We officially declare: There can be no talk of any interference.”
“If someone provided Mr Kilicdaroglu with such information, they are liars,” Peskov said.
He added that Moscow “highly values” its bilateral relations with Ankara.
“Turkey has a very responsible, sovereign and thought-through position on a whole range of regional and global problems that we face,” Peskov said.
Russia and Turkey have retained close ties throughout the Ukraine conflict, with Erdogan often acting as a mediator who talks to both Moscow and Kyiv.
The critical presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on May 14 amid an economic crisis in the country.
Polls show the secular opposition leader edging ahead of Erdogan in Sunday’s presidential ballot.