GOA, India (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday shrugged off new U.S. threats to retaliate against alleged Russian hackers, saying such statements only confirmed that Washington used cyber attacks for political ends.
Speaking after a summit of developing economies in India Putin also said he believed that the hacking allegations were mainly election campaign rhetoric by the White House, and that he hoped bilateral ties could improve after the U.S. elections.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told NBC News television on Friday that “we are sending a message” to Putin, and that retaliation for Russia’s hacking attacks “will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact”.
The U.S. government this month formally accused Russia for the first time of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“You can expect anything from our American friends. But what did he say that was new? Don’t we know that official bodies of the United States are spying and eavesdropping on everyone?” Putin told reporters after the summit of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
“The only new thing is that for the first time the United States has recognised at the highest level ... that they themselves do it (cyber attacks).”
Putin said that by “playing the Russian card” in the current election campaign, the outgoing U.S. administration sought to distract voter attention from its failures, which include huge state debt, weak diplomacy in the Middle East and strained relations with its allies in that region.
“I would like to reassure everyone, including our U.S. partners and friends - we do not intend to influence the U.S. election campaign,” he said.
Putin said he would work with any U.S. leader willing to work with Russia.
“If someone wants confrontation, this is not our choice,” he said. “On the contrary, we would like to find common ground and cooperate in solving the global problems that confront both Russia and the United States.”
On Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the Obama administration of destroying bilateral relations in the run-up to the elections, saying that “the level of Russophobic propaganda coming from the very top is now starting to go off the scale”.
Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Kevin Liffey