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‘Hackers are free people like artists’ Vladimir Putin explains why the Kremlin isn't the meddling bogeyman Western democracies say it is

Meduza
Kremlin Press Service

Vladimir Putin was in St. Petersburg on Thursday, where he joined the city’s annual international economic forum, meeting with the heads of several international news agencies. As is often the case, Putin’s remarks at the panel have generated headlines across the world, particularly thanks to his comments on hackers and election meddling — themes that have made Moscow something of a bogeyman in the West. Meduza reviews the Russian president’s latest response to accusations that his government uses computer geeks to poison the world’s uncooperative democracies.

The question that prompted Putin’s new comments came from Peter Kropsch, the general director of Deutsche Presse-Agentur, who asked the following: “There is always a kind of nervousness in Germany that some hackers, maybe also from Russia, could try to influence, by leaking information or by false information, this election process. Do you think that could be possible and what would be your advice for Germany and the German officials?”

Hackers are like artists

“Hackers can be anywhere, they can lurk in any country in the world. Of course, the general context of inter-state relations should be taken into account in this case because hackers are free people like artists. If artists get up in the morning feeling good, all they do all day is paint. The same goes for hackers.”

Some patriots just feel like “contributing”

“They got up today and read that something is going on internationally. If they are feeling patriotic they will start contributing, as they believe, to the justified fight against those speaking ill of Russia. Is that possible? In theory, yes. At the government level, we never engage in this. This is what is most important.”

Russia could have been framed

“I can imagine a scenario when somebody develops a chain of attacks in a manner that would show Russia as the source of these attacks. Modern technology allows that. It is very easy.”

Hackers can’t do anything, anyhow

“What is most important is I am deeply convinced that no hackers can have a real impact on an election campaign in another country. You see, nothing, no information can be imprinted in voters’ minds, in the minds of a nation, and influence the final outcome and the final result.”

Russia is a victim, not a perpetrator

“We do not engage in this activity at the government level and are not going to engage in it. On the contrary, we try to prevent this from happening in our country. At any rate, I believe that no hackers can affect the election campaign in any European country, nor in Asia or in America.”