McCain says Russian cyber attacks against US an 'act of war'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Republican Senator John McCain delivers a message to the media at the Benjamin Franklin library at the US Embassy in Mexico City on December 20, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Senior US Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain says Russia's alleged cyber attacks against political organizations to influence the 2016 presidential election amounted to an "act of war."

McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has scheduled a hearing for next week on foreign cyber attacks targeting the US, which will also focus on Russian hacking.

He has invited Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre, to next week's hearing

McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is one of Washington's most well-known foreign policy hawks.

"When you attack a country, it's an act of war," McCain said of the recent hackings on Ukrainian TV while on a visit to Kiev.

"And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay so that we can perhaps persuade Russians to stop this kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy," he said.

McCain and other top congressional leaders have pledged to press legislation next year on sanctions against Russia in addition to those announced by President Barack Obama this week. The senator has criticized the recent sanctions as insufficient and overdue.

However, incoming President Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned the accuracy of US intelligence pointing to Russia’s responsibility for the hacks and has said it was time to "move on."

The US claim has been rejected by Moscow. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published the stolen emails, has denied that the Russian government provided the files.

Obama took unprecedented steps Thursday to retaliate against alleged Russian interference in this year’s presidential election, including expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the US.

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