Russian President Vladmir Putin speaks during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum SPIEF' 2017 in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 2, 2017.
Mikhail Svetlov—Getty Images
June 3, 2017 9:24 AM EDT

Vladimir Putin has clarified an earlier claim that “patriotic” hackers could have meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, suggesting that American hackers could have sabotaged the results and used Russia as a scapegoat.

“Hackers can be anywhere. They can be in Russia, in Asia…even in America, Latin America,” the Russian president told NBC News’ Megyn Kelly in an interview that’s set to air Sunday night. “They can even be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very skillfully and professionally shifted the blame, as we say, onto Russia. Can you imagine something like that? In the midst of a political battle?”

“By some calculations it was convenient for them to release this information, so they released it, citing Russia,” Putin added. “Could you imagine something like that? I can.”

A day earlier at an economic forum moderated by Kelly in St. Petersburg, Putin said it was possible that Russian hackers were merely in “high spirits” and decided to meddle in the U.S. election on behalf of their country.

“They might have read a certain article and if they are in the patriotic mood, then they start making their contributions the way they see it positive towards the Russian image,” Putin said, according to an Associated Press translation.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are still investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the election as President Donald Trump’s administration faces continued scrutiny regarding possible connections to the Kremlin.

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