Vladimir Putin has given his broadest hint yet that Russia may have played a role in the hacking of western elections but emphatically denied that his government was involved. Speaking at the St Petersburg economic forum, the Russian president acknowledged that it was “theoretically possible” that “patriotic” Moscow hackers might have interfered in foreign polls. Asked on Thursday if Russia would meddle in Germany’s election later this year, Putin said: “If [hackers] are patriotically minded, they start to make their own contribution to what they believe is the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia. “Is that possible? Theoretically, that’s possible,” he said. … Putin compared hackers to free-spirited artists acting according to their moods, Reuters reported. He suggested cyber-attacks could be contrived to make them appear to have originated from Russia, when in reality they had come from somewhere else. “Modern technologies allow that to be done quite easily,” he said. He also said that he was personally convinced hackers were unable to materially change the outcome of an election, in America, Europe or anywhere else.
“On a state level we haven’t been involved in this [hacking]. We aren’t planning to be involved in it. Quite the opposite. We are trying to combat it inside our country,” said Putin.
… In January a dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele alleged that the Trump campaign and the Kremlin had jointly paid the hackers who targeted Democratic party workers in a series of spearphishing emails. Trump has dismissed the claim as “fake news” and Steele as a “failed spy”.
The FBI and four House and Senate committees are actively investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. A special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has been appointed after Trump sacked the FBI director James Comey last month. Comey is due to testify before the Senate intelligence committee next week.