The Kremlin has hit back at a US intelligence report blaming Russia for interference in the presidential election, describing the claims as part of a political witch-hunt. “These are baseless allegations substantiated with nothing, done on a rather amateurish, emotional level,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists on Monday. “We still don’t know what data is really being used by those who present such unfounded accusations.” US intelligence agencies released the joint report on Friday, a day after a Senate armed forces committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats, convened over fears of Moscow’s interference in the election. The report assessed that the Russian president had ordered a multifaceted campaign to influence the election, with a clear preference for a Donald Trump victory. “We are growing rather tired of these accusations. It is becoming a full-on witch-hunt,” Peskov said, in an echo of Trump’s own assessment and disparagement of the US intelligence agencies.
Friday’s report was a declassified version of a top-secret paper. A disclaimer printed on the public version said its conclusions were “identical to those in the highly classified assessment, but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign”.
The declassified version does not give examples of the kind of evidence that has been collected, but relies on claims that at times appear thin. In Russia, even Kremlin critics have reacted with surprise to the contents of the report and the uncritical way its findings were presented in much of the US media.
“The unclassified report is insulting to the knowledge of anyone who covers Russia either from the outside or the inside,” said Alexey Kovalev, who runs a website devoted to debunking Russian propaganda.