US Expels 35 Russian Diplomats Due to a Campaign of Harassment by Russia
US expels 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds, in New York and Maryland, in response to a campaign of harassment by Russia. One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the Russian diplomats would be given 72 hours to leave the United State. Access to the New York and Maryland compounds will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday. He said, “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.”
Officials did not specify what actions President Obama has approved. It is believed that economic sanctions, indictments, leaking information to embarrass Russian officials or oligarchs, and restrictions on Russian diplomats in the U.S. are among steps that have been discussed.
The FBI, CIA and Office of Director of National Intelligence agree that Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives ahead of the November 8 election. There is also agreement, according to U.S. officials, that Russia sought to intervene in the election to help Republican Donald Trump to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Russia has repeatedly denied hacking accusations. Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman promised retaliation on Wednesday against Washington in the event of new economic sanctions.
President Obama may choose to invoke an April 2015 executive order that empowered him to levy sanctions in response to cyber attacks perpetrated by foreign groups targeting infrastructure, such as transportation, or done for economic purposes.