MOSCOW The Kremlin on Thursday condemned a pre-election video in the United States promoting Republican front-runner Donald Trump at Hillary Clinton's expense, complaining that it unfairly "demonized" Russia.
The Kremlin did not spell out what its exact objection to the political attack video was. But its portrayal of President Vladimir Putin as one of Washington's toughest opponents alongside Islamic State, a group the Kremlin says it is fighting in Syria, is likely to have stirred anger among officials.
"I saw this clip. I do not know for sure if Vladimir Putin saw it. (But) our attitude is negative," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a teleconference with reporters.
The video tries to cast doubt over the ability of Clinton, the Democratic Party's likely presidential candidate, to contend with Putin in the event of her winning the November election.
Presenting what it suggests are the United States' toughest opponents, it shows Putin throwing an opponent in a judo bout before cutting to footage of Mohammed Emwazi, the late Islamic State executioner nicknamed "Jihadi John".
It then shifts to a clip of Clinton which has been edited to make it appear as if she is barking like a dog. Putin is then shown laughing.
"It's an open secret for us that demonizing Russia and whatever is linked to Russia is unfortunately a mandatory hallmark of America's election campaign," said Peskov.
"We always sincerely regret this and wish the (U.S.) electoral process were conducted without such references to our country."
Until now, the Kremlin has largely held off criticising Trump. Putin and Trump have lavished praise on one another in the past after the Republican front-runner spoke out in favour of building bridges with the Kremlin and of working together to fight terrorism.
Russian state TV, which usually closely reflects the Kremlin's world view, has also generally been more positive about Trump than the other presidential candidates, suggesting his policies are more Russia-friendly.
But state TV has at the same time complained about what it says is the anti-Russian tenor of the overall campaign, criticising most candidates for what it has described as their hysterical Cold War-style statements on Russia.
The United States has accused Russia during its aerial bombing campaign in Syria of not targeting Islamic State targets with the same ferocity or frequency it has demonstrated against what Washington says are more moderate groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow, an ally of Assad, has denied that charge, declaring Islamic State a dangerous threat to its own national security.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)