Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that blaming Moscow for using cyberattacks to interfere in next month’s U.S. presidential election is mere “hysteria” whipped up by Washington.
Speaking at a Valdai International Discussion Club meeting in Sochi, Mr. Putin once again dismissed Russia’s alleged involvement in recent cyber intrusions and email leaks suffered by individuals and organizations tied to the U.S. Democratic Party.
“Hysteria has been whipped up in the United States about the influence of Russia over the U.S. presidential election,” Mr. Putin said during Thursday’s event, as translated by Reuters.
“Does anyone seriously think Russia can somehow influence the choice of the U.S. people? Is the U.S. some kind of banana republic?” Mr. Putin asked, according to AFP. “The United States is a great power. Please correct me if I’m wrong.”
The Obama administration made a rare decision earlier this month by formally blaming Moscow for recent hacks waged against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others in the run-up to the Nov. 8 general election.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on Oct. 9 that said they were confident the Kremlin orchestrated the cyber campaign in an effort “to interfere with the U.S. election process,” adding “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
According to Mr. Putin, the U.S. has blamed Russia for the computer hacks in order to affect public opinion prior to next month’s election.
“It’s a lot easier to distract people’s attention towards Russia’s so-called hackers, spies, agents of influence and so on,” he said.
Russian state-owned media attributed Mr. Putin with saying Thursday that U.S. politicians have pointed the finger at Moscow in order to distract from “real issues” such as police brutality, and said supporters of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton are to blame for claiming Russia favors Republican opponent Donald Trump in next month’s presidential election.
Previously Mr. Putin told Bloomberg that Washington had accused Russia of being behind the hacks “to distract the attention of the American people from the substance of what hackers had put out.”
“It’s basically a way of manipulating public opinion, but for some reason nobody discusses that. They only talk about who did it,” he said in an interview earlier this month.