VLADIMIR Putin has given his boldest hint yet that Russia may have played a role in meddling with the US election, suggesting “patriotic” hackers could have interfered in cyber attacks to aid US President Donald Trump.
While the Russian President continued to deny any state role, his comments to reporters in St Petersburg mark a significant departure from the Kremlin’s previous assertions that Russia has no responsibility whatsoever, the New York Times reports.
“If (hackers) are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” he added.
“Is that possible? Theoretically, that’s possible,” he said.
Mr Putin compared hackers to “artists” who choose their targets depending on how they feel “when they wake up in the morning”.
US intelligence agencies concluded in January that the Russian leader himself had directed an “influence campaign” involving cyber attacks intended to tilt the US election in Mr Trump’s favour.
In a 25-page report prepared by the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, agencies said Russia had consistently tried to disrupt “the US-led liberal democratic order” but the recent hacking “demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”
“This document’s conclusions are identical to the highly classified assessment, but this document does not include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence on key elements of the influence campaign,” the report said.
Among the findings was that Putin had harboured a years-long grudge against Clinton after she slammed his autocratic rule while secretary of state.
Despite the accusations, Mr Putin said: “We’re not doing this on the state level”.
Originally published as Putin hints at US election meddling