Moscow has accused the United States of "dirty tricks" to whip up "unprecedented anti-Russian hysteria" through what it claims are unsubstantiated allegations that Russia was behind computer hacks against Democratic Party groups ahead of U.S. elections.
"This whipping up of emotions regarding 'Russian hackers' is used in the U.S. election campaign, and the current U.S. administration, taking part in this fight, is not averse to using dirty tricks," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in comments posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website on October 8.
Against a backdrop of increasingly strained relations over issues from ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria to nuclear disarmament, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of attempts by Russia and its intelligence agencies to influence or undermine the November vote.
But for the first time, President Barack Obama's administration on October 7 explicitly pointed to Russia as the alleged director of recent cyberattacks and leaks seemingly aimed at disrupting the elections, citing e-mails and digital intrusions on a range of election-related institutions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, initially described the U.S. officials' accusations of Russian hacking as "again some kind of nonsense."
The two leading candidates for president, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, have frequently clashed over how best to respond to Putin and his increasingly assertive foreign policies.
Clinton on October 7 suggested that Russians were behind a fresh dump of stolen digital documents published by Wikileaks -- some of which related to her views on trade and open borders, as well as financial reform -- that included private e-mails among her staff written as recently as the past few months.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” a statement by U.S. director of national intelligence James Clapper and the Department of Homeland Security said on October 7.
In his October 8 statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website, Ryabkov said Moscow repeated its offer from last year to hold consultations with the United States on fighting cybercrime.