Putin calls accusation of cyberattacks against US 'farcical'
Russian leader insisted that there is no evidence incriminating his government
Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed back against claims that his government is behind cyberattacks against the U.S. or election interference efforts, claiming that the allegations against Russia are "farcical" and lack evidentiary support.
In an interview with NBC News, Putin stopped short of a full denial of the allegations, but insisted that the U.S. has not been able to prove anything.
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"It’s becoming farcical," Putin said. "We have been accused of all kinds of things. Election interference, cyberattacks, and so on and so forth, and not once – not once, not one time – did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations."
Former special counsel Robert Mueller's report included detailed allegations that the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency used fake identities to carry out disinformation campaigns on social media and through grassroots activism.
In 2019, the Senate Intelligence Committee released an 85-page report outlining a large-scale Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The group of bipartisan senators described the social media activities of the Internet Research Agency as part of a "broader, sophisticated and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society."
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In the months before the 2020 elections, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Russia had been "very active" in election interference efforts, and a report by cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows released prior to the 2020 election claimed that Russia, Iran and China all posed threats leading into November's contest. The report accused Russia of "hack and leak" operations and cooperation between organized crime groups and Russian government agencies.
Russian hacker Yevgeniy Alexandrovich Nikulin was convicted and sentenced to 88 months in prison for hacking into LinkedIn, Dropbox and former social networking site Formspring, but Nikulin was convicted as a lone actor, not as part of a greater operation by the Russian government.
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In January, top U.S. national security agencies released a joint statement saying that a months' long cyber attack on software company SolarWinds "was likely Russian in origin."
Putin was asked by NBC why he does not take a firmer position against individual hackers who attack the U.S., harming diplomatic efforts in the process. Putin responded by saying that "the simplest thing to do would be for us to sit down calmly and agree on joint work in cyberspace," claiming that the U.S. has refused to do so.
Fox News' Bradford Betz contributed to this report.