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Putin: "Patriotic" Hackers May Have Meddled with US Election

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers may have been behind the election-season hacking in the United States last year.

Speaking to reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia, and reported by the New York Times, his comments contradict previous statements from the Kremlin that Russia—either from a state-sponsored perspective or in terms of its private citizens—had absolutely no role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other actions.

With rumors swirling around possible Russian targeting of the German election, Putin compared hackers to “artists”—creatively minded types that follow their hearts.

Their attacks depend on how they feel that day, he said. If “they wake up and read that something is going on in interstate relations,” they may decide to act, he added. “If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions—which are right, from their point of view—to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”

The comments come after Donald Trump’s administration has been placed in the crosshairs of a special prosecutor who is looking into possible collusion or ties between members of Trump’s inner circle and the Russian state and Russian oligarchs.

Putin reiterated that his government had no hand in the hacking, which has been widely attributed to the Kremlin-tied APT group known as Fancy Bear or APT28 by security researchers. “We’re not doing this on the state level,” he said.

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