20 January 2019
A guard screens cars entering the Russian embassy on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington. Photo: Reuters
A guard screens cars entering the Russian embassy on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington. Photo: Reuters

US expels Russians for spying, clamps sanctions over hacks

President Barack Obama has ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking US political groups in the 2016 presidential election.

The measures, taken during the last days of Obama’s presidency, mark a new post-Cold War low in US-Russian ties, which have deteriorated over differences about Syria and Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts to intervene in the US election process by hacking mostly Democrats have made relations even worse.

“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 US interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama said in a statement from vacation in Hawaii.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether President-elect Donald 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.

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.

US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. US intelligence officials also say that the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Trump, a Republican, defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

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