The Obama administration on Friday officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organisations.
The US government is ''confident'' that Russia ''authorised'' recent hacks of US officials' and organisations' emails, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence claim in a joint statement.
''The US intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,'' said the said two agencies. ''.?.?. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.''
''Disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,'' says a joint official statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence that was issued Friday.
Moscow rubbished the accusations as ''yet another fit of nonsense.''
The official denunciation came as pressure was growing from within the administration and some lawmakers to publicly name Moscow and hold it accountable for actions apparently aimed at sowing discord around the election.
Senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers welcomed the move and said they now expect the administration to act against Kremlin as part of an effort to deter further acts by its hackers.
''Today was just the first step,'' said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee. ''Russia must face serious consequences. Moscow orchestrated these hacks because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin believes Soviet-style aggression is worth it. The United States must upend Putin's calculus with a strong diplomatic, political, cyber and economic response.''
The White House has been mulling potential responses, such as economic sanctions, but no formal recommendation to the president has been made.
The DNC publicly disclosed the intrusions in June, saying its investigation determined that Russian government hackers were behind the breach. That was followed shortly after by a major leak of DNC emails, some so embarrassing that they forced the resignation of the DNC chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
The administration also blamed Moscow for the hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the subsequent leak of private email addresses and cellphone numbers of Democratic lawmakers.
The digitally purloined material has appeared on websites such as DC Leaks and WikiLeaks. It has included the private emails of former secretary of state Colin Powell and aides to former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
An online persona calling himself Guccifer 2.0 has claimed responsibility for posting the material. Those sites and that persona are ''consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,'' the joint statement said. ''.?.?. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.''
The Kremlin on Friday dismissed the administration's accusation.
''This is some sort of nonsense,'' said Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Putin. ''Every day, Putin's site gets attacked by tens of thousands of hackers. Many of these attacks can be traced to U.S. territory. It's not as though we accuse the White House or Langley of doing it each time it happens.''