Did Putin hint at Russia's alleged cyberattack on US? Prez praises intelligence agency for choosing 'fate of risk'

The Russian strongman particularly praised the young staffers in the foreign intelligence service, who are believed to include many with skills in hacking

                            Did Putin hint at Russia's alleged cyberattack on US? Prez praises intelligence agency for choosing 'fate of risk'
Vladimir Putin (Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, December 20, came out in support of his country’s intelligence agency accused of conducting a massive cyberattack mission against the US government, including its nuclear weapons agency. The 68-year-old leader lauded the intelligence agents after appearing at the headquarters of SVR -- Russia’s foreign intelligence service -- in southern Moscow to mark its centenary. On December 20, Russia also felicitated all members of the security services including those from the FSB -- the country’s domestic intelligence agency.

Putin, who himself is a former KGB agent, stood in freezing cold outside the headquarters to say: “I wish success to everyone who defends Russia, our people from external and internal threats, defends sovereignty and national interests.”

“And for whom the safety and well-being of the Motherland was, is and will be the main business of their entire life.” He also called the agents who are protecting Russia as “reliable and courageous people”.

He then said information security should get the most serious attention. 

'Efficient work of security bodies'

“Efficient work of security bodies, which is governed by law and national interests, always was and will be exceptionally important for Russia,” Putin said, adding: “It’s one of the most important guarantees of the sovereign, democratic and independent development of our multinational society.” The Russian strongman particularly praised the young staffers in the foreign intelligence service, who are believed to include many with skills in hacking. “I want to congratulate those who have recently chosen this fate for themselves, sometimes associated with considerable risk,” the leader, who is rumored to be stepping step down from the top post in the near future because of failing health.

Putin also said that the agents must “respond flexibly to the high dynamics of changes in the international situation and actively participate in identifying and neutralizing potential threats to Russia”. The veteran, who is at the helm of Russia over for decades now, hailed the role of former KGB during the times of the USSR and the role its various security organs play now in combating terrorism. 

“Our common task is to confront any attempts to revise history, including silencing or distorting the role of our special services in the defeat of Nazism and, more generally, in ensuring the national security and national interests of our country,” the Russian president said. 
Putin’s kind words for the SVR came at a time when the agency is accused of hacking networks of government agencies, private firms and think-tanks abroad. The cybersecurity breach incident in the US has left several experts shell-shocked and there was little doubt that the mission was a big one aimed at penetrating key American facilities. A company by the name of SolarWinds, which is behind a critical network monitoring which is utilized by the US government and many blue-chip firms in the US was hacked, exposing many public and private-sector computer systems. 

Putin’s spokesperson has denied that Moscow was behind the attack while the Russian embassy said in a statement that the Kremlin “does not conduct offensive operations in the cyber domain”.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has faced flak for not condemning Russia and put the blame on the country’s mainstream media. On Saturday, December 19, he spoke on the matter but downplayed its seriousness. He even negated the claims made by his own top intelligence officials and even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said it could be China and not Russia which was actually behind the sinister mission. 





Trump’s words were welcomed by the Russian media even though US officials believed APT29, a Kremlin-linked group which is also known to be Cozy Bear, as one of the top suspects behind the attack. 

Reuters reported that the incoming administration led by President-elect Joe Biden will weigh several options to take actions against Russia for its alleged role in the massive hacking of America’s government agencies and companies. Citing informed sources, the report said: “The response will need to be strong enough to impose a high economic, financial or technological cost on the perpetrators, but avoid an escalating conflict between two nuclear-armed Cold War adversaries, said one of the people familiar with Biden’s deliberations, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Putin praised Russian agents after Skripal incident

This is not the first time that Putin has come up with lavish praise on Russia's intelligence services at a time when the West has blamed it for carrying out attacks on its soil. In November 2018, while attending a ceremony held to mark the centenary of Russia's military intelligence agency (formerly called GRU), the president praised the Russian operatives for conducting special operations and said they gave the future generation a model to work on. This came after Great Britain accused the Russian agency of trying to poison a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury, a city in England.