- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the Obama administration is blaming Russia with hacking the Democratic Party in order to manipulate public opinion ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

In the wake of U.S. intelligence officials formally attribution the Kremlin with using cyberattacks and email leaks to interfere in next month’s election, the Russian president used an appearance at a business forum in Moscow this week to to deny responsibility while wagging his finger at Washington.

“They started this hysteria, saying that this [hacking] is in Russia’s interests. But this has nothing to do with Russia’s interests,” Mr. Putin told attendees.

Instead, he continued, the U.S. government is blaming the cyberattacks on Moscow to purposely stir up anti-Russian hysteria and “to distract the attention of the American people from the substance of what hackers had put out,” Bloomberg reported.

“It’s basically a way of manipulating public opinion, but for some reason nobody discusses that. They only talk about who did it,” Russian state-owned media quoted Mr. Putin as saying.

The Obama administration took a rare step Friday in announcing that U.S. intelligence officials are confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from individuals and organizations tied to the Democratic Party, including the Democratic National Committee breach that resulted in the leaking of emails that led to the ousting of its former chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the DNC hack and other attacks, according to U.S. intelligence officials. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Joshua Earnest said Washington is considering a proportional response that could range from a new round of sanctions to conducting hacks of its own.

Washington has already imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow in recent years due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shrugged off concerns of U.S. retaliation while speaking to CNN Wednesday.

“It’s not worth, I believe, speculating,” he said. “If they decided to do something, let them do it. But to say that Russia is interfering in the United States’ domestic matters is ridiculous.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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