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Putin says Russia and U.S. should agree not to meddle in each other's elections

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin called on Friday for an agreement between Russia and the United States to guarantee not to engage in cyber-meddling in each other’s elections.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan June 28, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

In a statement ahead of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3, Putin called for a reset between Russia and the United States and said he wanted an agreement between the two countries to prevent incidents in cyberspace.

“(I propose)... exchanging guarantees of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, including electoral processes, including using information and communication technologies and high-tech methods,” he said.

Moscow’s relations with Washington are at post-Cold War lows as the election looms.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the aim of tilting it in Donald Trump’s favour, including by hacking into the campaign of his rival Hillary Clinton. Moscow denies that charge.

Trump is currently campaigning for re-election against Democrat Joe Biden.

“One of the main strategic challenges of our time is the risk of a large-scale confrontation in the digital sphere,” Putin said in the Kremlin statement.

“We would like to once again appeal to the United States with a proposal to approve a comprehensive program of practical measures to reset our relations in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT).”

He proposed the two countries reach an agreement to prevent major cyberspace incidents, something he compared to a 1972 U.S.-Soviet treaty reached at the height of the Cold War to prevent incidents at sea and in the air from escalating.

He also called for the two countries to fully restore communication lines between their respective agencies to discuss key international information on security issues.

Russia has denied it is attempting to interfere in the 2020 U.S. campaign, despite evidence to the contrary.

Microsoft said two weeks ago that hackers linked to Russia, China and Iran were trying to spy on people tied to both Trump and Biden. Russia and China dismissed the allegations.

Reuters reported on Sept. 9 that Microsoft had alerted one of Biden’s main election campaign advisory firms that it had been targeted by suspected Russian state-backed hackers. The Kremlin called the report “nonsense”.

Additional reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mark Trevelyan and Hugh Lawson

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