Moscow is not happy with Donald Trump's new pre-election video slating Vladimir Putin as a judo-wielding anti-hero, saying the attack ad, although aimed at Hillary Clinton, in fact demonizes the Russian leader.
The gist of Trump's aggressive attack ad released Wednesday was that the Democratic frontrunner, who is seen in the 15-second video barking like a dog, is ill equipped to deal with forces like Putin and the Islamic State, which the campaign characterized as America's "toughest opponents."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the attempt to cast Russia as one of the world's villains was an all-too-familiar urge for US presidential candidates.
"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," Peskov told reporters. "We always sincerely regret this and wish the (US) electoral process was conducted without such references to our country."
At the start of the video ad, the Russian leader is seen in full Judogi while bodyslamming a challenger before it quickly cuts to a scene of the late Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John," who is seen leveling a gun at the camera.
The video concludes with a clip of Putin laughing and an end title card that reads: "We don't need to be a punchline."
Trump and Clinton have stepped up attacks aimed at one another as primary results from early elections continue to indicate that the candidates have decent shots at winning the Republican and Democratic nominations respectively, and will face off in the November general election.
Russian state media, which is controlled by the Kremlin, has up to this point been friendlier toward Trump than other candidates, after the billionaire businessman praised Putin late last year as a "strong" and "powerful leader."
Putin returned the compliments, saying Trump was "a very colorful character and talented," and the "absolute leader" in the US presidential contest. Putin also said he welcomed the candidate's talk about building closer ties with Russia.
Reuters contributed to this report.