Vladimir Putin goes on the defensive as fallout from US election continues
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has declared that the country’s government has never been involved in cyber attacks against other countries, instead laying blame at the doors of patriotic Russian citizens.
Speaking at an economic forum in St Petersburg earlier this week, Putin was facing questions regarding the Kremlin’s potential interference in the German elections later this year amidst the backdrop of its believed involvement in last year’s US Presidential elections.
He said countries that have strained relationships with Russia may have been hit by cyber attacks from patriotic hackers acting on their own initiative and that none of their activities were state-backed.
Likening such hackers to artists, Putin said: “They may act on behalf of their country, they wake up in a good mood and paint things. Same with hackers. They woke up today, read something about the state-to-state relations.
“If they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right, to fight against those who say bad things about Russia.
“On a state level we haven’t been involved in this, we aren’t planning to be involved in it. Quite the opposite, we are trying to combat it inside our country.”
Speaking specifically about the US election allegations, he also suggested that Russia could have been framed: “I can imagine that someone is doing this purposefully, building the chain of attacks so that the territory of the Russian federation appears to be the source of that attack. Modern technologies allow that time of thing.”
However, US intelligence officials remain unconvinced. Russia’s cyber activities have faced intense scrutiny ever since November’s US election that resulted in Donald Trump winning the race to the White House, which eventually led to 35 Russian diplomats being expelled from the US.
Speaking to CNN, Derek Chollet, senior adviser to the German Marshall Fund of the US, suggested that Putin’s comments were designed to “obfuscate and blur” reality.
“The US intelligence community in January concluded with high confidence that Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to try to shape the US election,” he said. “And part of that influence campaign were hackers.”
In December, former President Barack Obama ordered a “full review” into the Russian government’s alleged hacking activities and many high-profile security experts have since publicly blamed Russia for affecting the outcome of the election.
British intelligence agency GCHQ has also warned the UK’s political parties that future elections are at risk from Russian nation-state cyber attacks, placing officials on red alert.
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