Russia Rejects U.S. Report That Putin Authorized Election Meddling, But Braces For More Sanctions
By RFE/RL March 17, 2021
The Kremlin has denied a U.S. report saying President Vladimir Putin authorized misinformation operations to try to influence last year's presidential election but said Russia is readying for new sanctions over the issues.
Calling the allegations "absolutely unfounded," Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on March 17 that Russia "did not interfere" in the election and "was not involved in campaigns against any of the candidates."
Peskov's comments came in response to a report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on March 16 that assessed Putin had "authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President [Joe] Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President [Donald] Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the United States."
Reuters quoted three sources as saying Washington is expected to impose sanctions on Russia as soon as next week over the report's conclusions.
The U.S. accusations will be "used, most likely, as an excuse to put on the agenda the issue of new sanctions against our country," Peskov said. "Of course, we are forced to take all necessary measures in order to hedge any risks associated with possible sanctions and to protect the interests of our country as much as possible."
Biden defeated Trump in the vote and was inaugurated on January 20.
The report said Moscow's strategy primarily revolved around using "proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives" to U.S. media, officials, and prominent individuals in the run-up to the November 3 election.
The report cited Ukrainian-linked figures with ties to Russian intelligence as spreading misinformation about alleged corruption involving Biden, his son Hunter, and Ukraine. It said there was no evidence the government of Ukraine was involved in these influence operations.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the conclusions of the document "another loud fiasco for Russia."
The Russian Embassy accused the United States of seeking to give a "negative image of Russia and of blaming others for its own problems.
Moscow has repeatedly denied Western allegations of election interference.
The U.S. intelligence report also accused Iran of carrying out "a multi-pronged covert influence campaign" to damage Trump's reelection campaign, but did not actively promote Biden.
Iranian officials have not yet commented on the allegations.
Trump pursued a policy of "maximum pressure" on Tehran over its nuclear and missile programs, as well as its support for regional proxies, imposing crippling sanctions on Iran.
The U.S. intelligence community said in August 2020 that Russia, Iran, and China were actively trying to meddle in the forthcoming presidential election.
But in its latest report, it concluded with "high confidence" that China, which has long been accused of cyberespionage by Washington, chose not to "deploy interference efforts" ahead of the vote.
It also concluded that no foreign government had compromised the final results.
With reporting by Reuters and TASS
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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