The US has ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country in retaliation for alleged interference in the presidential election and imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services for hacking political sites and email accounts, officials said.
The State Department declared the 35 intelligence operatives “personae non gratae” giving them 72 hours to leave the country.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” President Obama said in a statement released during his vacation in Hawaii. “Such activities have consequences.”
A Russian parliamentary official said Washington’s decision represented “the death throes of political corpses,” Reuters reported.
Obama ordered sanctions against two Russian intelligence services, the GRU and the FSB, plus companies that American officials say support the GRU. Obama also sanctioned GRU head Lt. Gen. Igor Valentinovich Korobov and three of his deputies.
Alexei Belan and Yevgeny Bogachev, two Russian nationals who have been wanted by the FBI for cybercrimes, also were sanctioned.
Obama said the hacking “could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government,” a contention the administration has used to suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved.
The White House said its actions also were in response to other troubling Russian behavior: harassment of American diplomats by Russian personnel and police.
Washington also is closing two compounds, in New York and Maryland, which are recreational facilities owned by Russia’s government, the US said.
The White House said Russia had been notified that it would be denied access to the sites starting at noon Friday.
Russian officials have denied the Obama administration’s accusation that the Russian government was involved at the highest levels in trying to influence the US presidential election.
US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia’s goal was to help Donald Trump win an assessment Trump has dismissed outright without offering contrary evidence.
“The 17 intelligence agencies have come forward with unanimous assessment about Russia’s malicious cyberactivity,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said recently.
Thursday’s announcement comes several weeks after Obama promised to respond to Russian hacking in both public and covert actions “at a time and place of our own choosing.”
Officials believe a Russian spy agency hacked into the Democratic National Committee and stole emails later released by WikiLeaks, the Washington Post reported.
Emails hacked from the account of John Podesta, who chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, also were made public, while state electoral systems were also targeted.
The action puts Trump in the position of having to decide whether to roll back the measures once in office.
The president-elect has suggested that the US should abandon its effort to retaliate against Russia, telling reporters that “we ought to get on with our lives,” the paper reported.