Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pushed back against accusations that Russian hackers meddled in last year’s U.S. presidential election, saying no one had put forward any proof and former President Barack Obama’s administration ignored repeated overtures to discuss cyber-security norms.
“Somehow when we are blamed, no one asked for facts,” Lavrov said at the Munich Security Summit on Saturday. “Give us some facts.”
In his remarks, made in response to an audience question about whether Russia interferes in other countries’ elections, Lavrov portrayed Russia as a leader in efforts to focus on information security. He said Russia had “many years ago” initiated work at the United Nations to discuss information security. “Our western partners evaded that work,” he said.
After Donald Trump won the election in November, the U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment that Russia sought to sway the election in his favor through the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff. In the waning days of his administration, Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia’s military intelligence agency and the successor agency to the KGB, saying the actions had been directed “at the highest level” of the government.
Russia has also been implicated in other election-related hacks. France’s cyber-security watchdog concluded in December that groups that hacked the Democratic National Committee were active in France and urged political parties to put up defenses ahead of the country’s presidential election in the coming months. Germany will also have elections later this year, and lawmakers have warned that Russian hackers may try to interfere.
President Vladimir Putin has denied accusations of a Russian hacking campaign aimed at bolstering Trump. He said it was a case of the losing Democrats looking for someone to blame.
“I have seen no facts, there were just some accusations that we tried to hack some Democratic party website; that’s happening in France, Germany, Italy,” Lavrov said. He went on to point blame at the U.S. and make a reference to recent leaks that the Central Intelligence Agency may have spied on French political parties before the 2012 election there. WikiLeaks released e-mails making that claim this week.
Lavrov said he had suggested to the Obama administration in 2015 that the two countries discuss working together on cyber-security, and repeatedly asked former Secretary of State John Kerry about the proposal.
“For a year we had no reaction from them,” he said. “Then in December last year they said let’s meet, and later they said now we have transitional administration let’s postpone it.”