Vladimir Putin hints 'patriotic' private Russian hackers could have meddled in 2016 US election

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The Independent US

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the Russian government didn't meddle in the 2016 US election, but "patriotically minded" private Russian hackers may have done so, according to the New York Times.

The statement is something of a shift from Mr Putin's past statements on the matter, when he denied that any Russian involvement in any form took place.

Mr Putin said that Russian hackers could have taken it upon themselves to try and influence the 2016 US 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.

The Russian leader, however, stuck with his past statements that the Kremlin was not directly involved with any hacking efforts. 

"We're not doing this on the state level," he said.

Russia has been the focus of American investigations for it's purported role in meddling in the 2016 election, which saw several major hacks that are said to have damaged Democrats while propping up Donald Trump's campaign. Those hacks included a massive theft of Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign emails. The US intelligence community concluded in January that Mr Putin had personally directed a Russian "influence campaign" that included cyberattacks and the dissemination of false information in order to help Mr Trump's campaign.

The Russian leader seemed aware of the potential that Americans could potentially release evidence linking the 2016 cyberattacks to the Russian government, and opted to say that modern technology can be manipulated. If done, a falsified trail could be made to lead back to the Kremlin.

"I can imagine that someone is doing this purposefully - building the chain of attacks so that the territory of Russian Federation appears to be the source of teh attack," Mr Putin said. "Modern technologies allow to do that kind of thing, it's rather easy to do."

Mr Putin's slightly new position on the issue is similar to remarks from US President Donald Trump, who has said that Russian officials weren't likely responsible, and that the hacks could have been perpetuated by "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

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