US Expels 35 Russian diplomats, closes 2 compounds
Thursday, 29 December 2016

Thirty-five Russian diplomats have been expelled from the US, according to a senior official. 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, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Russian staff will also be denied access to the New York and Maryland compound as of noon on Friday, the source added.

"These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice," the unnamed official told Reuters.

President Barack Obama has also issued new sanctions against Russian people and companies that the US government has accused of hacking American institutions ahead of the election.

The Treasury Department announced the new sanctions against five entities and four individuals on Thursday afternoon.

In the executive order, which Obama signed Wednesday night, the president said he was taking “additional steps to deal with the national emergency with respect to significant malicious cyber-enabled activities… in view of the increasing use of such activities to undermine democratic processes or institutions.”

The five institutions are: the Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems, an autonomous noncommercial organization; Federal Security Service (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB); Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoe Razedyvatelnoe Upravelenie or GRU); Special Technology Center; and Zorsecurity, formerly known as Esage Lab or Tsor Security.

The four people are Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, the first deputy chief of the GRU; Sergey Gizunov, the deputy chief of the GRU; Igor Korobov, chief of the GRU; and Igor Kostyukov, the first deputy chief of the GRU. The Treasury Department also added two additional people, Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan and Evgeniy Mikhaylovich Bogachev, to the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List) "for malicious cyber-enabled activities."

Russia to respond:

Russia will undoubtedly provide an adequate response to new US sanctions and it will make Washington officials 'feel uncomfortable', Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

"We will certainly response adequately…and it will be determined in line with decisions adopted by Russian President [Vladimir Putin], Peskov told reporters commenting on the US move, which he described as "unpredictable and aggressive." "There is no doubt that this adequate and mirror response will make the US side feel very uncomfortable as well," Peskov stressed. The Kremlin spokesman added that Moscow regrets the US move to impose new anti-Russian sanction as it continues to destroy bilateral relations. He noted that the sanctions were unpredictable and seemed aggressive, adding that Russia still hopes to build normal relation with the US government.


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