Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at the US intelligence community after it accused Kremlin-linked hackers of conducting cyberattacks against a slew of political organisations, with the alleged aim of influencing the upcoming presidential election.
Putin, speaking at an economic forum in Moscow on 12 October, claimed the "hysteria" caused by such allegations is an attempt to divert attention from the actual content of the leaks and rejected any notion the outcome of the election was of interest to Russia.
"Everyone is talking about who did it. But is it that important?" he said. "The most important thing is what is inside this information. There's nothing there benefiting Russia. They started this hysteria, saying that this [hacking] is in Russia's interests. But this has nothing to do with Russia's interests."
He added: "The hysteria is simply to distract the American people from the contents of what the hackers have posted." Ever since the cyberattacks at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) earlier this year, the Russian state has made numerous – similarly worded – denials.
Nevertheless, sources in the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently made the unprecedented move to publicly accuse Russia's senior-most officials of authorising a series of sophisticated attacks on US interests.
US officials noted that disclosure of hacked emails on websites included DCLeaks and WikiLeaks were "consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts". It added that this form of information warfare "is not new to Moscow."
Putin, according to Russian state-owned media channel Russia Today, also claimed that there was "basically no dialogue" between the two rival nations and slammed the Obama Administration for attempting to use the leaks to forward his own agenda. "It's basically a way of manipulating public opinion, but for some reason nobody discusses that. They only talk about who did it," he said.
The tough-talking president called out both presidential candidates for anti-Russian statements during their campaigns. He said: "They made Russia a priority issue of the entire campaign. Everyone is talking about Russia. It may be flattering, but only partially. Because all participants of this process indulge in anti-Russian rhetoric and poison the relations between our states."
The US election campaign has been dominated by cyberattacks and the leaking of sensitive political information – from financial documents to research dossiers on rival candidates. Most recently, the Julian Assange-led whistleblowing outlet WikiLeaks recently started releasing thousands of emails from the personal email account of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Meanwhile, the White House has said it is considering a "proportional" response to the ongoing cyberattacks. "There are a range of responses that are available to the president, and he will consider a response that is proportional," said press secretary Josh Earnest.
He added: "The president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the US government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries."