Obama Issues Sanctions and Expulsions on Russia for Harassment and Interference in Election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The Russian embassy compound in Washington, D.C. (Aaron Siirila)

The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, President Obama announced on Thursday.

The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the U.S. election.

The Obama administration also announced on Thursday a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for hacking into U.S. political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates. Trump has dismissed those claims.

“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,” Obama said in a statement.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” he said.

The Russian diplomats would have 72 hours to leave the United States. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence-gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday.

The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed U.S. diplomats in Moscow, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

It is believed that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be one of those expelled.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Russia “has consistently sought to undermine” U.S. interests and sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia were overdue.

“While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia,” Ryan said in a statement. “And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”


Updated Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 3:58 pm