Russian President Putin admitted patriotic Russian hacker may target foreign electoral campaign – but insisted Moscow would not interfere in another nations election.
In the nearest admission to interference in foreign election to date, Putin said hackers may cyber attacks against critics if they “feel” like it.
The Russian president inadvertently praised the hackers who attack “those speaking ill of Russia”, and claimed it is part of a larger “justified fight”.
Speaking at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Putin said: “Hackers are free people like artists. If artists get up in the morning feeling good, all they do all day is paint.
“The same goes for hackers. They got up today and read that something is going on internationally.
“If they are feeling patriotic, they will start contributing, as they believe, to the justified fight against those speaking ill of Russia.”
But he insisted that the Russian government had never engaged in cyber espionage “at the government level”.
Putin said the real perpetrators could have disguised themselves to make it look like the attacks came from Russia.
His comments come after the French government’s cyber security dispelled speculations that Russia had sabotaged Macron’s campaign with leaks during the French elections.
Guiilame Poupard, head of France’s government’s cyber security told the Telegraph: “The attack was so generic and simple it could have been anyone.
Meeting President Putin for the first time, Newly elected French president Macron launched a furious attack against Russian media for deploying “lying propaganda” to try and smear his election campaign.
In a bid to brush off the attacks, Putin said: “Actions cannot be based on hunches, hunches that are moreover unconfirmed.”
The Russian leader seemed aware of the potential that Americans could potentially release evidence linking the 2016 cyberattacks to the Russian government, and to defend his nation, he said modern technology can be “manipulated”.
He also suggested hacking attacks were being staged to make it look like Moscow was behind them to discredit Russia.