By Jack Stubbs
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said he did not know who was behind the hacking of U.S. Democratic Party organizations but the information uncovered was important, Bloomberg news agency reported on Friday.
In an interview two days before a G20 meeting in China with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders, Putin said it might be impossible to establish who engineered the release of sensitive Democratic Party emails but it was not done by the Russian government.
“Does it even matter who hacked this data?” Putin said. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.”
“There’s no need to distract the public’s attention from the essence of the problem by raising some minor issues connected with the search for who did it,” he added. “But I want to tell you again, I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this.”
The hacked emails, released by activist group WikiLeaks in July, appeared to show favoritism within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and prompted the resignation of the body’s chairwoman.
A computer network used by Clinton’s campaign, and the party’s fundraising committee for the U.S. House of Representatives were also hacked.
Clinton, who polls show as leading Donald Trump in the campaign for the U.S. presidential election in November, has said Russian intelligence services conducted a cyber attack against her party. Some officials have suggested Moscow is trying to influence the U.S. election.
Putin dismissed the allegations. “We have never interfered, are not interfering and do not intend to interfere in domestic politics,” he said.
“We will carefully watch what happens and wait for the election results. Then we are ready to work with any American administration, if they want to themselves.”
Relations between Russia and United States hit a post-Cold War low in 2014 over the Ukraine crisis, and Washington and Moscow have since clashed over diverging policies in Syria.
Obama said in August he would discuss the cyber attack with Putin if Russia was responsible, but it would not “wildly” alter the two countries’ relationship.
The U.S. election contest has been hard fought and frequently dominated by both candidates’ attitudes toward Russia.
Clinton has rounded on her Republican rival Trump for his perceived praise of Putin and what she says is an “absolute allegiance” to Russia’s foreign policy aims. Trump, in return, has said Clinton’s own close ties to the Russian president deserve greater scrutiny.
Putin said both candidates were using shock tactics and that playing “the anti-Russian card” was short-sighted.
“I wouldn’t like for us to follow their example,” he said. “I don’t think they are setting the best example.”
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova,; Writing by Jack Stubbs,; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Mark Trevelyan)
Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 2, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS