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Putin's finance minister claims there are not any hackers working for the Russian authorities

The golden domes of the Kremlin's churches and cathedrals will be illuminated on Monday, April 9, 2018, at dusk in Moscow, Russia.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russia has rejected allegations of coordinating hacking attempts against academic and pharmaceutical institutions in the West. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told CNBC on Monday that no hackers work for the Kremlin.

"There are no hackers working for the Russian government, so our government does not take hackers' actions into account or coordinate them," said Siluanov to CNBC's Geoff Cutmore.

"I can repeat that, in our view, no hackers have been given a special task to access pharmaceutical companies 'websites," he said, insisting that while the country has no legitimate interest in developing other nations' coronavirus vaccines Russia is trying to develop these own.

"So I see no reason for hackers to be involved in these activities," added Siluanov.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, the National Security Agency, the Canadian company for communications security, and the British National Cyber ​​Security Center joined forces on Thursday to accuse Russia of the hacking campaign.

Officials said a group called APT29 – aka "Cozy Bear" – was probably responsible for the attack. They said it used spear phishing and custom malware to target vaccine researchers, adding that the group was "almost certainly" part of Russian intelligence.

"It is completely unacceptable for Russian intelligence agencies to take action against those working to fight the coronavirus pandemic," UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Tense relationships

On Friday, Russian officials also pointed to a mass-production agreement for a British coronavirus vaccine developed by Astrazeneca and Oxford University, as proof that Russia doesn't have to steal vaccine data.

Russia's relationship with the West remains tense in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The latest allegations come after Russia was accused of spreading disinformation about the corona virus when the virus spread across Europe in the spring. Russia again denied the allegations on the grounds that they were unfounded and had no common sense.

Apart from diplomatic conflicts, Russia has to deal with the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and the rest of the international community. According to the Johns Hopkins University, Russia has the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases after the USA, Brazil and India with almost 770,000 confirmed infections.

A week ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly supported a proposal to give the country more time to implement a massive $ 363 billion national investment plan, with a six-year deadline to complete the package by 2030 can be postponed as the country tries to cope with a recession triggered by the crisis.

When the Russian central bank cut its base rate by 100 basis points to 4.5% in June, the lowest since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it warned of a fall in GDP (gross domestic product) in the second quarter. "could prove to be more substantial than expected." GDP is forecast to decrease by 4-6% in 2020.

Economists believe that Russia may have the slowest recovery among the industrialized nations. An Economist Intelligence Unit report published last week said the global economy would not recover to pre-coronavirus levels until 2022, with Russia expected to reach this level in 2024 after losing nearly 10 years of growth .

Finance minister Siluanov did not appear to be concerned that allegations of hacking could maintain Russia's image as a "bad actor" and damage the country's reputation among investors at a time when it was most needed.

"How could it affect the economy? I really don't think it would have an impact on the economy. We are pursuing our own course of crisis management measures, we will implement them. These negative stories appear from time to time unfortunately" , he said.

"The main point is the type of policy we are pursuing. It is balanced. I talked about our fiscal policy at the meeting of the G20 finance ministers (group of 20). We have no problems in balancing the budget deficit, as we see Our own domestic investors, should we borrow money outside of Russia or not? We will see that it all depends on market conditions, but I am sure that we will be able to take out external loans at excellent interest rates, "he said.

"The second point I wanted to make is about investing in our economy. This is primarily the case. We need to stimulate investors. The activity of domestic investors in our economy has recovered and we are always welcoming foreign investors. Me wouldn't agree to that. " Russia's image has suffered from hacker attacks or other negative news. The most important thing is the balanced macroeconomic policy that we are pursuing, "he said.

– CNBC's Sam Shead and Ryan Browne contributed to this article.

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