The Obama administration has imposed sanctions against Russia’s intelligence apparatus — including the expulsion of 35 diplomats — in retaliation for the alleged orchestration of hacking attacks designed to interfere in the presidential election.
The actions outlined Thursday afternoon also include:
- Shutting down two compounds, one in in Maryland and one in New York, “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.”
- Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services GRU and FSB, high-ranking officers of the GRU, and three companies that allegedly provided support to the GRU’s cyber operations
- Releasing technical information about Russian cyber activity, “to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.”
“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 U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” President Obama said in a statement.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions.”
In his statement, Obama said the U.S. had declared 35 Russian “intelligence operatives” persona non grata. The State Department said the 35 are diplomats “who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status” and accused Russia of harassing U.S. diplomats overseas.
As of noon on Friday, the U.S. will bar Russian access to two Moscow-owned “recreational compounds,” the White House said. No further detail was provided, but since 1972, the Russians have owned a historic estate overlooking the Chester River in eastern Maryland. They also own property in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, but it’s not clear if that is affected.
There was no immediate response from Moscow. In anticipation of the announcement, Russia on Wednesday called the hacking allegations “misinformation” and “lies” and vowed to respond to any retribution.
“We can only add that if Washington takes new hostile steps, it will receive an answer,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
“This applies to any actions against Russian diplomatic missions in the United States, which will immediately backfire at U.S. diplomats in Russia. The Obama administration probably does not care at all about the future of bilateral relations, but history will hardly forgive it for this après-nous-le-deluge attitude.”
As NBC News first reported two weeks ago, U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the alleged hacking campaign, and the CIA concluded the goal was to help elect Donald Trump by leaking emails that were embarrassing to Democrats.
Publicly, President Obama has blamed “the highest level” of the Russian government for the hacks, noting that “not much happens in Russia” without Putin giving the green light.
Trump has expressed doubt as to whether Russia tried to meddle in the election. Asked on Wednesday about possible sanctions against Russia in the wake of the cyber-attacks, the president-elect said, “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”
Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: “In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.” So true!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2016
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said this week that there is broad support for sanctions against Russian and even the Russian president.
“I predict there will be bipartisan sanctions coming that will hit Russia hard, particularly Putin as an individual,” Graham told reporters in Riga, Latvia.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied that his site was being used by the Russian government when it published emails stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The White House said the actions will go beyond those announced Thursday.
“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 in his statement.