President Vladimir Putin said that “patriotically minded” Russian hackers may have been behind the cyberattacks during the 2016 U.S. election, the New York Times reported. While Putin denied any direct involvement from state agencies, his words reverse previous blanket denials that Russia was at all involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee or other election meddling.Putin compared hackers to artists when asked by reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia about accusations that Russia may interfere in Germany’s upcoming elections. Artists, Putin said, paint when in good spirits while “patriotically minded” hackers are prompted when “they wake up and read that something is going on in interstate relations” and then “fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” reported the Times.
The Russian government has blurred the boundary between state and private actors in the past, most recently in Eastern Ukraine where Putin first claimed that only Russian volunteers were fighting before later announcing that some Russian military personnel were indeed also fighting with separatists.
Putin’s denial of state-level involvement runs contrary to reports from U.S. intelligence agencies who said that Putin directed the cyberattack against the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and a disinformation campaign during the presidential election.