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Russia Meddled In U.S. Election, Comey Says During Senate Testimony


David Greene is on the line from Moscow. David, are people saying just the same thing there?


I would say they're saying completely different things, Steve. That's the view you get here in Russia. We've spent, you know, days here now talking to basically everybody we could convince to talk to us, learning about that question, learning about what motivates Vladimir Putin, learning about what Russians make of suddenly finding their country at the center of American politics. And here with me asking all of these questions is NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, who - Mary Louise, you're no stranger to covering the story of Russia, we should say.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: I am not from the Washington end. But it's nice to be here sharing the NPR Moscow bureau with you.

GREENE: Yeah, it's a familiar place for me. I spent a couple years here. And Lucian Kim, who's now our correspondent, he's been a great welcoming party, along with Sergei Sotnikov, a dear friend of mine, our producer here. But - so we should talk about some of the questions we've been asking. A big one is, you know, did Russia interfere in the election? And what do you think after listening to people here?

KELLY: Well, I have been putting that exact question to everybody I talk to here. I've been subjecting my taxi drivers to it. And...

GREENE: People you buy, like, you know, street meat from.

KELLY: Exactly. The answer I am getting back from nearly everybody I have been asking is, no, they don't think Russia meddled in the election. But it's interesting because they will give you different reasons why. So let me introduce you to a couple of the people I've been talking to. One is a man named Anton Nossik. He's an Internet pioneer here. He founded a bunch of startups. The Moscow Times newspaper here bestowed him the title Godfather of the Russian Internet.

GREENE: That's nice.

KELLY: Yeah. And to set the stage, he lives in an apartment with a view looking down over the U.S. Embassy compound.

GREENE: Convenient.

KELLY: He showed me you look out his window and you can watch the Americans inside the U.S. Embassy typing their logins and passwords. So Internet security, there you go.


KELLY: But Nossik is not persuaded that Russian hackers were acting on the orders of Vladimir Putin. Let me let you hear Nossik.

ANTON NOSSIK: That's an absolute nonsense. That's absolute [expletive]. We haven't seen one single success in the computer sphere that has been achieved on direct orders of President Putin. Everything that has been done successfully in the Russian Internet has been done by private individuals that were totally unrelated to the government, that were taking orders from no one, investing their own commercial money.

KELLY: May I press you on that? What makes you sure that this was not ordered by a Russian intelligence agency or the Russian government, the Kremlin, President Putin himself? What makes you sure that couldn't be possible?

NOSSIK: You know, in the Roman Empire, they coined the Roman law. Under the Roman law, the burden of proof is on those who are claiming Kremlin involvement.

KELLY: And just to be clear for people listening who don't know you by your reputation in America, you are no fan of Vladimir Putin's.

NOSSIK: I think the government of this country, that they're morons, idiots and parasites. Therefore, I don't believe they're superhuman. That's why I don't believe it. I don't believe in their capabilities. I fully believe in their evil intentions. I don't believe in their capabilities.

KELLY: So that's Internet guru Anton Nossik.

GREENE: OK, so meeting him in an apartment right by the U.S. Embassy. You keep telling me about this meeting you had in a bit of a different place at a hotel on Red Square.

KELLY: I have a standing appointment with former KGB General Vyacheslav Trubnikov. I met him last summer. I asked him to meet me again and tell me what he thinks about events unfolding in the U.S.

VYACHESLAV TRUBNIKOV: To be frank, I never expected that American society would be so deeply split. I never expected this. I considered this society more solid.

KELLY: You mentioned a split in American society and how surprising you find it. The fear in the United States is that Russia has also identified these divisions and is working to worsen them, to spread confusion, to make American democracy look bad. Is that true, do you think?

TRUBNIKOV: What for? In what sense Russia - what Russia gets from split American society?

KELLY: If you weaken your adversary, that can work to your advantage.

TRUBNIKOV: It is absolutely incorrect. It reminds me of very old anecdote about two neighbors. One neighbor has two cows and his neighbor has only one cow. So the neighbor who has one cow does not think in terms to have another one, but that one cow of neighbor would die. This is perverted logic which exists, unfortunately. But be absolutely sure today's Russia, at least the bulk of politicians here, do not think in such terms.

KELLY: You don't believe that a weakened America is to Russia's advantage?

TRUBNIKOV: To have a weak partner does not mean that you become stronger.

KELLY: Former Russian spymaster Vyacheslav Trubnikov. Although ask any CIA guy, they'll tell you there's no former KGB.


GREENE: Mary Louise Kelly with us here in Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.