Washington: Outgoing US President Barrack Obama yesterday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats who are suspected to be spies and imposed sanctions over allegations of hacking and interference during the recently concluded US Presidential elections where Donald Trump from the Republican party came to power.
The move, coming at the very end of Obama’s tenure, marks an all-time low between US-Russia relationships is bound to cause problems for the President-elect Donald Trump who assumes office in less than 20 days time.
President Obama described those expelled as “intelligence operatives,” also announcing the closure of 2 Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.
A statement from the State Department says that they were expelled for acting in a “manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status.”
President Obama explained in a statement from Hawaii, where he is currently vacationing, that these measures were introduced “in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations aimed at the US election.”
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” the president added, blaming Moscow for orchestrating hacking attacks.
Previously Obama, a democrat, had promised actions after US intelligence officials blamed Russia for hacking and influencing the elections. Some of the officials pointed fingers at the Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that he may have personally directed the hacking efforts which damaged Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election.
Obama has also put sanctions on 2 Russian intelligence agencies GRU and FSB, and 4 GRU officials and 3 companies saying that they provided support for the GRU’s cyber operations. In total 9 Russian entities have been sanctioned.
Clarifying that these are not the only measures being planned, Obama further added, “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized.”
A report detailing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election as well as cyber attacks in previous election cycles would be delivered to Congress in the coming days, he added
The 35 expelled Russian diplomats have 72 hours to leave the US, while access to the two compounds will be denied to all Russian officials from noon of Friday.
Meanwhile President-elect Donald Trump said it is time to move on.
He added in a statement released on Thursday, “Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”
Trump could potentially reverse these sanctions post inauguration.
Responding to the news, Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Konstantin Dolgov said this could complicate future attempts to restore Russia-America relationships. He also claimed that these sanctions show a “total disorientation of the outgoing [US] administration.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in another statement, “Frankly speaking, we are tired of lies about Russian hackers that continue to be spread in the United States from the very top.”
“The Obama administration launched this misinformation half a year ago in a bid to play up to the required nominee at the November presidential election and, having failed to achieve the desired effect, has been trying to justify its failure by taking it out with a vengeance on Russian-US relations,” added Zakharova.
The claims of Russian hacking by losing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, has been denied on numerous occasions by Moscow and the whistle-blower website Wikileaks.