Russian President Vladimir Putin today made a big shift from his blanket position of denial on accusations of his country’s involvement in the spectacular cyberattack during the US presidential elections. While Putin did not shift his position much, but his statement opened a window that was till now tightly shut regarding alleged involvement of any Russian hand in helping the eventual winner Donald Trump in his campaign. Putin, during a meeting with Russian and foreign news agencies in St. Petersburg gave a hint of this probable involvement. He said ‘patriotically minded’ hackers may well have had a hand in it. He even compared hackers to artists who chose their targets according to their whims. However, Putin denied that the Russian state was involved in any manner at all.
But even as Putin continued to deny any state role in this matter, his comments were a significant shift from Kremlin’s previous position which said Russia had no role to play in the hacking of Democratic National Committee. Putin stuck to his denial of any foul play by the Russian state bodies or any employee involvement into the matter – United States intelligence agencies have made this accusation. US agencies concluded in January that Putin had himself directed a Russian ‘influence campaign’ which included the cyberattack as well as misleading information which was intended to favour Trump.
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“If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” New York Times quoted Putin as saying.
“We’re not doing this on the state level,” Putin added.
The New York Times writes that there is a very thin line which distinguishes as to what a state or private action is, especially when it comes to Russian influence abroad. Russian citizens have been a part of the fight along with Russian speaking rebels in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere too.
NYT itself hinted at what may have forced Putin’s hand in making the statement that he did. The newspaper said, ‘Perhaps worried that American intelligence agencies could release evidence linking last year’s cyberattacks to Russia, Mr. Putin also put forward a theory that modern technology could easily be manipulated to create a false trail back to Russia.’