President Vladimir Putin on Thursday insisted that the Russian state has never engaged in hacking and scoffed at allegations that hackers could influence the outcome of elections in the United States or Europe.
But the Russian leader admitted the possibility that some individual “patriotic” hackers could have mounted some attacks amid the current cold spell in Russia’s relations with the West.
Speaking at a meeting with senior editors of leading international news agencies, Putin also alleged that some evidence pointing at Russian hackers’ participation in attacks – he didn’t specify which – could have been rigged in an attempt to smear Russia.
“I can imagine that some do it deliberately, staging a chain of attacks in such a way as to cast Russia as the origin of such an attack,” Putin said. “Modern technologies allow that to be done quite easily.”
US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party emails, helping President Donald Trump’s election victory, and the Congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia have shattered Moscow’s hopes for a detente with Washington.
Asked if Russian hackers could try to shape the outcome of German parliamentary elections later this year, Putin said: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.”
He noted that Russia can work constructively with any German leader, adding that he had good ties with German Chancellor Angela Merkel despite some differences.
Russian meddling was also a concern in France, with Putin publicly expressing his sympathy for President Emmanuel Macron’s rivals in the campaign. Macron’s aides claimed in February that Russian groups were interfering with his campaign, and a document leak hit Macron’s campaign in the final hours of the French race. Moscow has strongly denied all allegations of election meddling.