Putin denies US cyberattacks
Ahead of summit with Biden, Russia rebuffs accusations
Published: Jun 15, 2021 06:03 PM
Xinhua file photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden

Xinhua file photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed accusations that Russia was behind cyberattacks against the US as "farcical" in an interview with NBC broadcast on Monday ahead of his summit with US President Joe Biden.

The Russian leader also said he was open to a prison swap with the US - the fate of prisoners is set to be on the agenda when the two meet in Geneva on Wednesday - and said that jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny would "not be treated any worse than anybody else."

Biden will attend the summit after a week of meeting allies from the G7, EU and NATO, with tensions between Moscow and Washington at their highest in years.

Asked if Russia was waging a "cyber war" against the US, Putin said: "Where is proof? It's becoming farcical."

"We have been accused of all kinds of things, election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth, and not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations."

US companies, including a major fuel pipeline network, have been hit by cyberattacks in recent months, often forcing temporary shutdowns until ransoms are paid.

Any negotiations over prisoners would focus on individuals including former US marine Paul Whelan who was jailed for 16 years by Russia for espionage. Whelan has urged Biden to arrange a prisoner exchange and said that he was victim of hostage diplomacy.

Another US citizen, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 on charges of assaulting Russian police officers while drunk.

Moscow could be eyeing the return of the notorious Russian arms dealer imprisoned by the US, Viktor Bout, and a contract pilot and alleged drug trafficker, Konstantin Yaroshenko.

But the White House moved to quickly tamp down talk of an exchange of "cyber criminals" after Biden appeared open to the idea when speaking at a press conference after the G7 meeting in Britain.

"He's not saying he's going to be exchanging cyber criminals with Russia," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said. "What he was talking about was accountability and the idea that responsible countries should be held accountable... not harboring cyber criminals, and to bringing cyber criminals to justice."

When asked about accusations of crushing of dissent in Russia, Putin said "you are presenting it as dissent and intolerance towards dissent in Russia... we view it completely differently."