- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday questioned whether the Trump administration has escalated cyberattacks against Russia’s power grid as recently reported.

Taking questions during an annual call-in show, Mr. Putin was asked about The New York Times reporting that the U.S. has quietly ramped up its offensive cyber operations against Russia in recent months — a claim President Trump has disputed as “fake news.”

“I saw the response by the president,” Mr. Putin said in Russian, as translated by state media. “I don’t know how we should interpret that update. Have they indeed revealed some real information? Or was it the information that was planted … fake information?”

The Times reported on Saturday that the U.S. has recently ramped up its attacks on Russia’s power grid, and that at least two administration officials believed that Mr. Trump had not been briefed about it.

“This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country,” Mr. Trump reacted to the report on Twitter. “They should immediately release their sources which, if they exist at all, which I doubt, are phony. Times must be held fully accountable!”

Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Tuesday that it “cannot be ruled out” that the Russian and U.S. presidents will discuss cyberattacks on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 summit.

More recently, Mr. Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday that he intends on meeting with Mr. Putin during next week’s gathering of world leaders.

“I want to get along with Russia, and I think we will. I want to get along with China, and I think we will. I’m meeting actually both of them next week in Japan at the G20,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News.

“Dialogue is always a good thing,” Mr. Putin responded during Thursday’s call-in show. “Everyone needs dialogue. If the U.S. shows interest, as I said several times, we are ready for dialogue in the same extent as our American partners are ready.”

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