Obama expels 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for US election hacking
The Obama administration on Thursday announced its retaliation for Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election, ordering sweeping new sanctions that included the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, informs Reuters.
The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties and set up a potential flashpoint between incoming President-elect Donald Trump and fellow Republicans in Congress over how to deal with Moscow.
Obama put sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that he said "provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations."
He said the State Department declared as "persona non grata" 35 Russian intelligence operatives and is closing two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that were used by Russian personnel for "intelligence-related purposes." The State Department originally said the 35 were diplomats. The Russians have 72 hours to leave the United States.
"These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," Obama said in a statement from Hawaii, where he is on vacation.
"All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions," he said.
It was not clear whether Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, would seek to roll back the measures once he takes office on Jan. 20.
Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyber attacks. He said on Thursday he would meet with intelligence officials soon.
The Kremlin, which denounced the sanctions as unlawful and promised "adequate" retaliation, questioned whether Trump approved of the new sanctions. Moscow denies the hacking allegations.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.