Putin Vents at U.S. for ‘Hysteria’ Over Hacking Blamed on Russia

  • Russia doesn’t stand to benefit from attacks, president says
  • U.S. blamed Russia, saying hacking consistent with its goals

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the plenary session during the VTB Capital Russia Calling! Investment Forum on Oct. 12, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.

Photographer: Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant via Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin said the hacking of American political groups for which the U.S. has blamed his government doesn’t serve Russia’s interest and the uproar unleashed is used to divert attention from the disclosures.

Speaking days after the U.S. publicly said for the first time that intelligence agencies are “confident that the Russian government directed” the hacking attack and leaked stolen material in order to interfere with the Nov. 8 presidential election, Putin said on Wednesday that finding the party responsible is less important than the fact that the information is now available to the public.

“There is nothing in Russia’s interest,” Putin said in Moscow at an investment forum organized by VTB Capital. “The hysteria aims only to distract the attention of the American people from the substance of what hackers had put out. And the substance is the manipulation of public opinion.”

The announcement by the U.S. last week underscored a deepening rift between the former Cold War foes, whose ties are riven by disputes ranging from Ukraine and Syria to misgivings about each other’s nuclear and conventional military capabilities. As relations between the two countries sour, President Barack Obama’s administration is under pressure to respond after laying the blame for the hacking on Russia.

“Does it really matter who did it?” Putin said.

‘Proportional’ Response

The White House vowed to make a “proportional” response to what it believes were actions directed by Russian authorities. The Kremlin said Wednesday that it regarded such pledges “negatively.”

In making its disclosure, the U.S. said the hacking “is consistent with the motivations of Russian efforts,” according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Russia has tried to “destabilize democracies” in other parts of world, he said on Tuesday.

Russia is open to working with the U.S. on fighting criminal activities online, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Russia was, is and will be committed to the principle of the need to fight cyber terrorism, hacking,” he said. “Russia is in favor of international cooperation, including with the U.S., in this sphere.”

While holding out the prospect of joint efforts against hackers, Peskov has previously brushed off any suggestion that Russia could be held accountable for the attacks in the U.S.

“There are tens of thousands of hackers attacking Putin’s website every day,” he said last week. “Many are tracked to U.S. territory, but we don’t accuse either Washington or Langley every time,” he added, referring to the CIA’s headquarters near Washington.

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