Hackers could have come from anywhere -Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a television interview broadcast Sunday criticized the United States for what he termed “moralizing” as he denied Russian meddling in the US presidential election.

Putin dismissed a question about Russia’s history of corruption, repression and silencing of dissidents, turning his answer into a series of questions.

“Why do you feel you have the right to ask us these kinds of questions? And do it all the time? To moralize and to give us lessons on how to live?” he said.

Russia is ready to listen to comments that are constructive with the goal of establishing a relationship “but we will absolutely not accept when these sorts of things are used as an instrument of political conflict,” he said.

Putin was interviewed in St Petersburg, Russia, on the sidelines of an economic forum. The interview was broadcast on the premiere of a new NBC show, “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.” The former Fox News anchor recently joined NBC.

Putin insisted hackers who stole and disclosed information that turned out to be damaging to the campaign of Hillary Clinton in last year’s campaign could have come from anywhere.

“Hackers can be anywhere. They can be in Russia, in Asia … even in America, Latin America,” he said. “They can even be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very skillfully and professionally shifted the blame, as we say, onto Russia.”

US intelligence community officials have said they are certain that the hackers were in Russia and that their instructions came from Putin, who sought to undermine Clinton and boost Donald Trump’s chances of winning.

Trump conceded in January that Russia has waged cyber attacks, but insisted they had no effect on the election outcome.

Putin, who frequently took a defensive stance throughout the interview, also said reports that Russia has compromising material on Trump were “just another load of nonsense.”

He said he never met Trump on any of his trips to Moscow.

“Where would we get this information?” Putin asked. “Have you all lost your senses over there?”

Asked about the Russian ambassador’s visit to the White House last month after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, Putin said the US media had “created a sensation” over it.

He said if there had been anything interesting to come out of the meeting, his foreign minister would have reported it to him.

He also claimed he had limited personal interaction with former US national security advisor Michael Flynn.

He said they met at a dinner in Moscow in December 2015 and he was told only afterwards that Flynn was formerly in the security services.

The interview aired as intelligence committees in both the House and Senate investigate alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. The committees are preparing to question Trump administration officials, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and close advisor.

The FBI also is probing whether anyone associated with Trump’s presidential campaign was involved in the Russian hacking.

Trump’s firing of Comey sparked accusations that he was trying to bring an end to the Russian hacking investigation.

After Comey was fired, the Justice Department named Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, as special counsel to take over the FBI’s Russia-Trump investigation.

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