News World Obama expels 35 Russian diplomats in backlash

Obama expels 35 Russian diplomats in backlash

obama putin
With less than three weeks before Trump's inauguration, Obama will go down swinging. Photo: Getty
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President Barack Obama has retaliated against Russia for conspiring to win Donald Trump the White House by naming and shaming Kremlin operatives who allegedly meddled in the election.

Using an executive order, Mr Obama outed six alleged Russian operatives: Vladimir Alexseyev, Aleksey Belan, Evgeniy Bogachev, Sergey Gizunov, Igor Korobov and Igor Kostyukov.

Mr Obama’s administration has also deported 35 Russian diplomatic staff allegedly working as spies, according to The New York Times.

The President also named five organisations allegedly involved in the hack attack, including Zorsecurity, a firm based in Moscow, the US Treasury Department reported on Friday morning.

It marks the most significant response from both the US government and the Democratic Party to widespread accusations the Kremlin interfered in the November election to increase the chances of a pro-Russian candidate.

The claim that Moscow was responsible for leaking hundreds of sensitive and embarrassing emails from within Hillary Clinton’s campaign to the Wikileaks website has been backed by three agencies: the FBI, the CIA and the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

US president-elect Donald Trump, who is thought to have close ties to Russia, reacted negatively to the reports of fresh sanctions, saying “we ought to get on with our lives”.

Mr Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the assertion that Russian hackers stole information from the Democratic Party and posted it online to help him beat Ms Clinton.

He did so again on Thursday, telling reporters in Florida: “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.

“We have speed, we have a whole lot of other things, but I’m not sure you have the kind of security that you need.”

The Wikileaks website has claimed the emails were supplied by a disgruntled Democratic Party employee, not Russian spies.

trump putin
Trump (right) has said Putin’s thoughts on a US-Russia relationship are “so correct”.

Russia’s foreign ministry ambassador at large, Andrewy Krutskikh, reacted by accusing Obama of “personal hatred”.

“The US president’s personal hatred has surpassed itself. All of this is unprovable and is an attempt to stifle possible cooperation,” Mr Krutskikh told Russian state news.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had a more ominous message: “If Washington actually takes new hostile steps, then it will get a response.”

Earlier this month, President Obama told reporters “the intelligence I’ve seen gives me great confidence that the Russians carried out this attack”.

US action on Russian hacking
President Obama has not named Vladimir Putin as being personally involved in Russia’s alleged attack – but some media reports claim he was aware of it. Photo: Getty

The President has ordered the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to issue a joint public report on the hackings before Mr Trump takes office on January 20.

His administration has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow, mainly for its aggressions in Ukraine. The fate of these and any new retaliatory measures under Mr Trump is unclear.

During the campaign, Mr Trump not only suggested he might lift the sanctions, but also said he would look into the possibility of recognising Crimea, annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as part of the Russian Federation.

Sanctions imposed by Mr Obama could be rescinded by presidential order, but sanctions imposed by Congress would require a vote by Congress (which is currently dominated by the Republican Party).

Republican congressman Trent Franks, member of the Committee on Armed Services, told MSNBC on Friday morning that if Russia did provide “information” to Wikileaks then “they merely did what the media should have done”. He criticised the looming retaliation as an effort to “destabilise” Trump.

The transition process is already rocky. Earlier this week, Mr Trump accused Mr Obama of putting up “roadblocks”.

“Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!” he wrote on Twitter.

This was a response to Mr Obama telling the media he could’ve defeated Trump if allowed by the constitution to run for a third term.

Mr Obama tried to smooth over these hurt feelings in a subsequent phone call, which Mr Trump described as “very, very nice”.

– with Jackson Stiles and Mike Bruce

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