Thirty-five Russian diplomats have been expelled from the US, according to a statement from State Department. President Obama described those expelled as “intelligence operatives,” also announcing the closure of two Russian compounds, in New York and Maryland.
The Russian diplomats would be given 72 hours to leave US soil. They are expelled for acting in a “manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status,” the statement reads.
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 29, 2016
The Russian staff will also be denied access to the New York and Maryland compound as of noon on Friday, the source added.
This is part of the measures introduced “in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations aimed at the US election,” Obama said in his statement, calling the measures “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.”
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” the president stressed, again blaming Moscow for orchestrating hacking attacks.
“These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government,” he said.
“Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year,” Obama added.
According to the US leader, nine Russian entities, including the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) and the FSB (Federal Security Service), were sanctioned.
Four individual GRU officers of the GRU and three companies that “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations” were also among the blacklisted.
Obama said that that the newly announced measures weren’t “the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities.”
“We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said.
The president said the international community “must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance.”
The new sanctions show the “total disorientation of the outgoing administration” and will complicate future attempts to restore Russian-American relations, said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Any anti-Russian sanctions are futile and counterproductive. I can only reiterate that the sanctions hysteria only demonstrate the total disorientation of the outgoing US administration,” Dolgov told Interfax.
“Such unilateral steps have the sole aim of harming relations [between Moscow and Washington] and complicate their restoration in the future,” he added.
The Obama administration and the losing Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, have accused Moscow of being behind cyberattacks that targeted Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, during their campaign.
They said that the whistleblower website WikiLeaks obtained the damaging hacked emails, which dashed Clinton’s chances to win, from Russian intelligence agencies.
The claims were denied by both WikiLeaks and Moscow on numerous occasions, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling them “nonsense” in an interview with RT.