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President Biden on Thursday said Russian President Vladimir Putin “was not” involved in the devastating ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline — as he pleaded with gas stations not to gouge customers.
“I am confident that I’ve read the report of the FBI accurately. And they say they were not, he was not. The government was not,” Biden said at the White House when asked if Putin was involved.
The pipeline reopened on Wednesday night amid reports that the company paid a $5 million ransom to the cybercriminals.
Biden declined to comment on the ransom. He also cautioned US consumers that gas stations won’t be replenished immediately.
“We expect to see a region-by-region return to normalcy beginning this weekend, and continuing into next week,” Biden said.
“I also want to say something to the gas stations: Do not, I repeat, do not try to take advantage of consumers during this time. I’m going to work with governors of the affected states to put a stop to price gouging wherever it arises,” he said.
“I’m asking our federal agencies to stand ready to provide assistance to state-level efforts to monitor and address any price gouging at the pump. Nobody should be using this situation for financial gain. That’s what the hackers are trying to do. That’s what they’re about, not us.”
At her daily press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Russian government has “some responsibility” to address the hack because it’s “the country where individuals are located, even as a criminal network.”
The Colonial Pipeline carries gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast northward to New Jersey. It shut down over the weekend, causing a large share of gas stations to run dry from Florida to Maryland. The national average gas price spiked to a seven-year high.
The US government believes that a Russia-based criminal enterprise known as DarkSide is responsible. Russian cybercriminals often are alleged to have some association with the Kremlin.
Biden said Monday that there’s “no evidence” that the Russian government is behind the hack. Biden is expected to meet with Putin next month in Europe during his first foreign trip as president.
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