view counter

The Russian connectionPutin: “Patriotic,” “private” Russian hackers may have interfered in 2016 U.S. election

Published 1 June 2017

In a surprising shift, President Vladimir Putin for the first time admitted publicly that Russian hackers may have meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections. He said, however, that the hackers were not Russian government employees but rather “patriotically minded” private Russians. The U.S. intelligence community, and Western intelligence services more generally, have collected voluminous, and incontrovertible, evidence, based on both signal and human intelligence, that hackers and disinformation specialists working for the GRU and the FSB – Russia’s military and domestic intelligence services, respectively – have launched a broad disinformation and hacking campaign last year in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. The Russian leader seemed aware of the possibility that more information about the Russian government’ role in the hacking and disinformation campaign may be revealed, and was trying to get ahead of such disclosures by saying that digital technology can be manipulated.

Putin admits that Russian hackers may have hacked U.S. election entities // Source: theconversation.com

In a surprising shift, President Vladimir Putin for the first time admitted publicly that Russian hackers may have meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections. He said, however, that the hackers were not Russian government employees but rather “patriotically minded” private Russians. Putin made his comments in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro.

Moving away from his past blanket denials of any Russian interference in the U.S. election, Putin said that the Russian hackers could have taken it upon themselves to try and influence the 2016 U.S. election, saying that hackers “are like artists” who make decisions on who to target depending on how they feel on any given day.

If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions - which are right, from their point of view - to fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” he said.

Putin continued to insist, however, that the Kremlin was not directly involved with any hacking efforts. 

We’re not doing this on the state level,” he said.

The U.S. intelligence community, and Western intelligence services more generally, have collected voluminous, and incontrovertible, evidence, based on both signal and human intelligence, that hackers and disinformation specialists working for the GRU and the FSB – Russia’s military and domestic intelligence services, respectively – have launched a broad disinformation and hacking campaign last year in order to ensure that Donald Trump, the Kremlin’s preferred candidate, would win the presidential election.

The GRU’s and FSB’s hackers followed the same disinformation-and-hacking template in in interfering in the elections in France, Montenegro, and the Netherlands, and in political referenda in Sweden (on Sweden’s relationship with NATO) and the United Kingdom (Brexit).

Russia is now actively supporting the efforts of the far-right, Nazi-sympathetic AfD to elect some of its members to the Bundestag in the September election in Germany.

These Russian government hackers and disinformation specialists have actively – both overtly and covertly — supported right-wing, ethno-nationalist, and populist parties and movements like Front National in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, Jobbik in Hungary, UKIP in Britain, and AfD in Germany. All the parties and movements Russia supports are on the extreme-right fringes in their countries, and all share opposition to Muslim immigration, and support distancing their countries from the EU, NATO, and the United States, as well as withdrawing from international agreements and treaties – on trade, the environment, human rights — in favor of more nationalist,