Kremlin slams ‘amateurish’ hacking report
MOSCOW: The Kremlin yesterday branded a hacking report by US intelligence baseless and amateurish, saying Moscow is growing tired of denying claims the Russian government meddled in the US election. “These are baseless allegations substantiated with nothing, done on a rather amateurish, emotional level that is hardly worthy of professional work of truly world-class security services,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
US intelligence agencies on Friday released a report saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign of hacking and media manipulation to upend the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin’s comments were the first official reaction by Moscow to the public report, which was half the length of the classified version presented to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump. “We still don’t know what data is really being used by those who present such unfounded accusations,” Peskov said, insisting the Kremlin was “categorically denying any implication” it was responsible for the alleged hacking.
‘Full on witch hunt’
“We are growing rather tired of these accusations. It is becoming a full-on witch hunt,” Peskov said, echoing Trump’s claim ahead of Friday’s briefing by spy chiefs that the hacking revelations were a “political witch hunt” aimed at discrediting him. Peskov added that “witch hunts” by US politicians are usually followed by “more sober specialists, more sober approaches which seek dialogue rather than emotional fits.”
The declassified US intel report contained largely open-source information to show that Russian state media followed a pro-Trump line and said there was “high confidence” in intelligence from multiple sources that Putin ordered the campaign to tilt the vote, without revealing those sources. In December, the White House said the GRU Russian military intelligence orchestrated a hack, helped by the Federal Security Service and various third parties, though without saying exactly how the alleged hack was perpetrated.
Trump did not reject the report’s findings that Russia-ordered hacking occurred, but denied that it swayed the election outcome and blamed “gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee” for lax cyber security. His incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus told Fox News Sunday that “he’s not denying entities in Russia are behind these particular hackings.”
President Barack Obama, who has received the same briefing, said Sunday that he underestimated the impact of Russian hacking and that “this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe”. The hacking claims pushed ties between the US and Russia – already at their lowest since the Cold War due to Ukraine and Syria – to a new nadir. Obama in December expelled 35 suspected Russian spies and slapped sanctions on Moscow’s main intelligence agencies over the scandal.
Putin refused to retaliate in kind to the measures as Moscow pins its hopes on Trump – who has publicly praised Putin – to improve ties. Peskov said the Kremlin has not been in touch with Trump’s team and for the moment is not making any plans for a face-to-face meeting “at least until President-elect becomes President” later this month. – AFP