By Andrew Osborn and Dmitry Solovyov
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin dismissed as absurd on Tuesday allegations it was behind the hacking of U.S. Democratic Party emails, saying unidentified individuals were trying to cynically exploit fear of Russia for electoral purposes.
It responded after cyber security experts and U.S. officials said there was evidence Russia had engineered the release of sensitive Democratic Party emails in order to influence the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.
The emails, released by activist group WikiLeaks at the weekend, appeared to show favouritism within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for Hillary Clinton and prompted the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
President Vladimir Putin has tried to avoid giving the impression he favours any U.S. candidate, but has hailed Republican Party nominee Donald Trump as being “very talented”.
Russian state TV, which hews closely to the Kremlin’s world view, has left little doubt however that Moscow would prefer Trump. It casts Clinton, whom Putin accused of stirring up protests against him in her role as U.S. Secretary of State in 2011, as a warmonger.
“We are again seeing these maniacal attempts to exploit the Russian theme in the U.S. election campaign,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked about the leaked emails.
“This is not breaking new ground, this is an old trick which is being played again. This is not good for our bilateral relations, but we understand that we simply have to get through this unpleasant period.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier on Tuesday he had raised the hacking issue at a meeting in Laos with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“I don’t want to use four-letter words,” was Lavrov’s only response to reporters when asked whether Russia was responsible for the email hack.
Earlier this month, Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Trump, visited Moscow, where he gave a lecture complaining that Western governments had often had a hypocritical focus on democratisation in the post-Soviet world.
Analysts say the Kremlin would welcome a Trump win because the billionaire U.S. businessman has repeatedly praised Putin, spoken of wanting to get along with Russia, and has said he would consider an alliance with Moscow against Islamic State.
Trump’s suggestion he might abandon NATO’s pledge to automatically defend all alliance members is also likely to have gone down well in Moscow, where the military alliance is cast as an outdated Cold War relic.
(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Lesley Wroughton, Simon Webb; Editing by Catherine Evans)