The Reuters exclusive claimed that the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS) penned two confidential documents “providing the framework and rationale for what US intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election.”
Reuters did not see the documents itself but rather relied on accounts from three current and four former US officials, who claimed that US intelligence had acquired the files. None of the sources was named by Reuters, a common feature of US media reports on alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election.
The documents, the sources told the agency, were dated June 2016 and October 2016 and “circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government.” The sources declined to say how US intelligence had obtained them.
Reuters described RISS as a “Russian government think tank controlled by [President] Vladimir Putin” and said that they were central to the Obama administration’s accusations of meddling by Moscow.
The White House said at the time that the Kremlin used hacking and ‘fake news’ to tamper with the election process in favor of Republican Donald Trump, an assertion that Russia denies.
Mikhail Fradkov, the director of RISS, said the think tank did not draw up a master plan for putting Trump in the White House.
“Apparently, the authors of this idea failed to correspond the actual reality with the fantasies that their conspiracy theory minds covet in order to draw back the public perception to the issue of alleged Russian ‘participation’ in the US election, which has been fading away lately,” Fradkov said on Thursday.
He said that while RISS has highly-trained professionals among its analysts, the think tank does not have the expertise to prepare a large-scale information warfare campaign.
Fradkov headed Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency for nine years. Before that he served for three years as Russian prime minister.
Fradkov’s predecessor as head of RISS until 2017, Leonid Reshetnikov, under whose supervision the reported intervention plan would have been prepared, also rejected the allegations.
“Of course it’s another piece of fake news, lunacy. RISS never prepared such documents or plans and I doubt it is doing such a thing now,” he said, adding that “this is not our job.”
RISS is a think tank that works closely with various bodies of the Russian government, including the president’s office, the parliament and the National Security Council. It provides analysis and expert opinion on matters of international stability, conflict management, security and trends.
The Kremlin offered a similarly dismissive comment on the publication.
“The only thing I can say is that seven anonymous sources are not worth a single real one,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.