Russia calls US intel report on election meddling ‘baseless’

The report directly linked President Vladimir Putin to attempts to swing the US election in Donald Trump’s favour.

A US intelligence report concluded that Russia sought to influence the US presidential election in favour of Trump [File: Timothy D Easley/AP]

Russia has called United States intelligence findings that President Vladimir Putin had likely directed efforts to try to swing the 2020 presidential election towards Donald Trump as “baseless”.

A 15-page US intelligence report, released on Tuesday, supported longstanding allegations that some of Trump’s top lieutenants were playing into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against then-candidate Joe Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the November 3 election.

The report said Moscow sought to “push influence narratives” that included misleading or unsubstantiated claims against Biden “to US media organisations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration.”

It added that Putin was “aware and probably directed” the campaign to undermine Biden and boost Trump.

In a statement on Facebook, Russia’s US embassy in Washington, DC, called the report “another set of baseless accusations against our country for interfering in American domestic political processes.”

“The conclusions of the report on Russia conducting influence operations in America are confirmed solely by the confidence of the intelligence services of their self-righteousness. No facts or specific evidence of such claims were provided,” the embassy added.

Washington is expected to impose sanctions on Moscow as soon as next week because of the allegations, three sources told Reuters news agency on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity. Those sanctions could also address the so-called SolarWinds cyberhack blamed on Russia that penetrated an array of US government networks last year.

Russia has denied any involvement in that hack.

Tuesday’s intelligence report also detailed a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran intended to undercut support for Trump.

It also countered a narrative pushed by the Trump administration that China was the larger threat when it came to election meddling. Trump allies had maintained that Beijing sought to shift the vote in Biden’s favour.

While the reported concluded that Beijing had weighed influence on the campaign, it ultimately “did not deploy interference efforts”.

The report also concluded that unlike during the 2016 presidential election, Russia or other state actors did not attempt to cyberhack the US election infrastructure.

‘Megaphone diplomacy’

The US imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials earlier this month over Moscow’s treatment of opposition politician Alexey Navalny, something Moscow cast as unacceptable meddling in its domestic affairs.

Russia’s US embassy, in its Wednesday statement, also accused Washington of seeking to besmirch Russia’s image and of blaming others for its own problems.

“We state that Washington continues to practice ‘megaphone diplomacy’, with the main goal to maintain a negative image of Russia. To blame external players for destabilising the situation inside the country,” the embassy said in the same statement.

“This attitude of the administration hardly corresponds to our proposed equal and mutually respectful expert dialogue in search of solutions to the most pressing issues. Washington’s actions do not lead to the normalisation of bilateral relations.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies