Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday claimed that the country has never indulged in hacking any election, and will never do so in the future either. Putin, who has faced criticism for Russia’s alleged role in influencing the outcome of the United States election in 2016, also said some “patriotic persons” could have hacked the US election instead, as a reaction to “Russophobic hysteria”.

The Russian President also denied, in response to a question, that his government would try to influence the 2017 German election, saying, “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.”

Speaking to international media in Moscow, Putin claimed that swaying a national election was no easy task. However, he compared hackers to artists, stating that “like artists who get up and paint all day, hackers spend their time attacking adversaries”.

The Russian president also raised the possibility that the US election had been hacked in order to cast doubts on the Kremlin’s credibility. This is quite easy to do with modern technology, he claimed.

American intelligence agencies believe that the Kremlin influenced the result of the November 8, 2016 election, in which Republican candidate Donald Trump stunned most pollsters by defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in March started an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election.