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Russia moves to expel 35 US diplomats in tit-for-tat response

Russia announced plans to expel 35 US diplomats in retaliation to sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama.

world Updated: Dec 30, 2016 16:54 IST
Agencies
File photo taken on November 30, 2015 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN conference on climate change.
File photo taken on November 30, 2015 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN conference on climate change. (AFP)

Russia moved on Friday to expel 35 US diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to President Barack Obama unleashing a barrage of retaliatory measures against Moscow for meddling in the American election.

In televised remarks, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said his ministry and other agencies had suggested that President Vladimir Putin order the expulsion of 31 employees of the US Embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the US consulate in St Petersburg.

Another suggestion in response to sanctions imposed by Obama was to bar American diplomats from using their summer retreat on the outskirts of Moscow and a warehouse south of the city.

Lavrov said the allegations that Russia interfered in the US elections were baseless. He also said Russia would not leave the US sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies unanswered.

Russia began eying retaliatory measures after Obama kicked out 35 suspected intelligence agents, imposed sanctions on two intelligence agencies and shuttered two Russian compounds in the US in the furious dispute over alleged election interference.

Obama delivered on a promise to punish Putin’s government for allegedly trying to tilt the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor and unveiled the steps that will inflame tensions with both Moscow and the president-elect.

Read | US intelligence accuses Putin of personally directing election hack

US intelligence had concluded that a hack-and-release of Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton staff emails was ordered by the Kremlin and was designed to put the Republican real estate mogul in the Oval Office.

“I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations aimed at the US election,” Obama said in a statement.

In response to the hacks – dubbed “Grizzly Steppe” by US officials – Obama announced sanctions against Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as GRU, and the FSB, the organisation that was once known as the KGB.

The Obama administration also sought to expose Russia’s cyber tactics with a detailed technical report and hinted it might still launch a covert counterattack. “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” said Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii. “Such activities have consequences.”

Trump said while he believes the US should “move on to bigger and better things”, he would meet with intelligence leaders next week for a briefing on the situation.

Obama’s sanctions could easily be pulled back by Trump, who has insisted that the president and Democrats are merely attempting to delegitimise his election.

Read | US sanctions Russian intelligence agencies for poll hacking, Trump says time to move on