After months of categorically denying Russian involvement in cyberattacks during last year’s U.S. presidential elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that while the Kremlin has never used state-sponsored cyberattacks to meddle in other countries’ elections, some “patriotically minded” volunteer hackers may have acted on their own to defend Russian interests.
“Hackers can be anywhere, and pop out from anywhere in the world,” Putin said in an address to Russian and foreign media during the opening day of an annual economic forum held in St. Petersburg.
The Russian president compared hackers to artists, who can act creatively, particularly when they are motivated by international relations and in the defense of Russia’s interests.
“If they woke up today, read that there is something happening in interstate relations,” he said. “If they are patriotic, they start contributing, as they see it, in the fight against those who do not speak well about Russia.”