Putin hints Russian 'artists' may have hacked US election

A change of tune: Previously, Russia had denied any role in the DNC hack.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
Vladimir Putin Attends Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum

Russian President Vladmir Putin, during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

Last October, US intelligence agencies agreed: It was Russian spies who hacked the US Democratic National Committee, with an intent to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. 

Now, after months of denials that Russia had any involvement, Russian President Vladmir Putin has reportedly suggested that Russian individuals might have indeed been behind the hacks. 

During a press conference in Saint Petersberg on Thursday, Putin said it was "theoretically possible" that "patriotic" individuals might have made "what they see as a fair contribution to the struggle against those who speak ill of Russia," according to a RadioFreeEurope translation

Putin, however, still insists that the Russian government didn't sponsor the cyberattacks. He cast the hackers as individuals: "Hackers are free people, just like artists who wake up in the morning in a good mood and start painting," he reportedly said.

"What's most important, and this is my deep belief, hackers can't crucially influence an election in a foreign country," he added, according to reports. 

The White House and Department of Homeland Security didn't immediately reply to requests for comment. An FBI spokesperson referred CNET to the January report from the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which concluded that Russia did attempt to undermine the 2016 US election.

The FBI is currently investigating whether President Donald Trump's election team had ties to the Russian government.