The Russian President conceded for the first time that hacking attacks may have taken place from his country to influence the US election, but insisted these were not state-backed.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said hackers from his country may have meddled in the 2016 US election, but insisted that they acted on their own and were not backed by the government.

When asked about the issue at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Putin compared hackers to artists and said, “They might get up one morning and read something about state-to-state relations, and if they’re patriotic, they might choose to make their own contribution to the fight against those who speak ill of Russia.”

This is the first time since allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign emerged that Putin has conceded that any sort of hacking attacks may have taken place to influence the US election.

In March, when asked directly whether Russia interfered in the US election, Putin told reporters, “Read my lips: No.”

The US intelligence community, however, has repeatedly claimed that Putin ordered a campaign to try and influence the election.