WASHINGTON, December 30, 2016 — President Obama has fired back against Russia for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election. The White House ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the U.S. and sanctioned four Russian individuals and five entities. The administration also ordered two Russian compounds shut down.
The four individuals sanction were directly connected to Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU. The White House made the announcement early Thursday.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions … Such activities have consequences.”
The White House identified two of the men sanctioned as Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev and Alexy Belan. They were being sought by the FBI for questioning about cyber-crimes. Obama ordered them and their families to leave in the next 72 hours.
President-elect Donald Trump chimed in on the sanctions, saying the country needs to “move on” with regard to the hacking. He is, however, scheduled to meet with intelligence officials to discuss foreign hacking operations. When he is sworn in, Trump will have the power to overturn the sanctions but is not expected to.
Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco appeared on CNN’s “The Lead” and told Jake Tapper that these hackers were gathering information for Russian intelligence operations.
“What these individuals were doing were basically collecting intelligence. They were intelligence officers operating here and using these compounds, one in New York, one in Maryland, for intelligence collection purposes.”
The Russian embassy in the UK called Obama’s actions “Cold War déjà vu.”
CNN reported that the Russian government had responded to Obama’s sanctions by ordering the closure of the Anglo-American School of Moscow. The school serves the children of American, British and Canadian embassy personnel. According to Forbes, however, that report is a fake news story. The Forbes report was supported by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which called the CNN story “a lie.”
Obama’s sudden fight with Russia comes as he is set to leave office, and it forces Trump to confront the issue of Russian hacking rather than letting the matter drop.