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The Obama administration hit back against Russia for hacking the U.S. presidential campaign with a sweeping set of punishments targeting Russia’s spy agencies and diplomats.

On Thursday Obama administration announced that United States has expelled 35 Russian spies in response to Russian efforts in malicious cyber activity to interfere in last month’s US presidential election.

US President Barak Obama ordered the expulsion in response to alleged hacking of the US Democratic Party and Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

The 35 Russian diplomats being expelled are “intelligence operatives”, Obama said. These 35 diplomatic intelligence officials from the Russian embassy in Washington DC and the consulate in San Francisco. The state department has declared them “persona non grata” and giving them 72 hours to leave the country with their families.

US state department said in a statement that diplomatic expulsions were a response not only to hacking but to “a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas, that has increased over the last four years, including a significant increase in the last 12 months”.

President Barack Obama has also announced shutting down of two Russian compounds, in New York and Maryland, used by the Russian officials for intelligence-gathering, and Russia will be denied access to compounds from Friday at noon.

US president said two weeks ago, in a statement that He believes hacking “could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.” Obama said “Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions” and pledged to deal with this problem.

The actions are not the sum total of its 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”.

“I have issued an executive order that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners,”

“I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations,”

“In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.”  US President Obama said in a statement, while he was vacationing with his family in Hawaii.

 

US intelligence agencies have described the Russian hacking as a “decade-long campaign,”
Several US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and FBI believe Russia ordered cyber-attacks on the Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager and Democratic National Committee, and their stolen emails were released during the 2016 US presidential election by WikiLeaks in the final weeks of the campaign to cause favor of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Russia has denied any involvement in this cyber-attack and called the decision “ungrounded”. Russia is not happy with the decision in the dying days of the Obama administration.


After the announcement of sanctions against the Russian diplomats on Thursday, the Russian Embassy in London feed a twitter, meanwhile, called the Obama administration “hapless”  and attached a picture of a duck with the word “LAME” over it. This tweet obvious reference to Obama as he nears the end of his “lame duck” period in White house after almost eight years as US president.

Ultimately, it depends on elected President of US Donald Trump, who will take over from President Obama next month, if he carries the new sanctions against the Russian diplomats.

Donald Trump, who has previously dismissed reports of Russian interference in the election and has spoken positively about Russia, told reporter on Thursday “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. In the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week to be updated on the facts of this situation,” Trump Said on Thursday.

“I know a lot about hacking,” he told reporters, “and hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else.”

The elected president of US also suggested that computers could not be trusted with sensitive information, and recommended using pen and paper.

“You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way,” Trump Said. “Because I’ll tell you what – no computer is safe.”

 

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement on Thursday that the sanctions were “overdue.”

“Russia does not share America’s interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world,” Ryan said.

White House officials said that elected president transition team was informed of the sanctions before they were announced on Thursday. The officials added that the actions were a necessary response to “very disturbing Russian threats to US national security”.

A senior administration official said.

“We have no reason to believe that Russia’s activities will cease, one reason why I think it is necessary to sustain these actions is because there’s every reason to believe Russia will interfere with future US elections.

There has to be a cost and a consequence for what Russia has done, it is in an extraordinary step for them to interfere in the democratic process here in the United States of America. There needs to be a price for that.”

 

Russian Foreign Ministry has announced plans to expel 35 US diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to US decision over allegations of hacking the US presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed President Putin to kick out the same number of diplomats, 31 staff members from the US Embassy in Moscow and 4 from the consulate in St-Petersburg.

Russia may feel it is inadvisable to kick out 35 US diplomats. On Thursday Russian authorities ordered the Anglo-American School of Moscow closed, according to CNN. The school serves children of US, British and Canadian embassy personnel, and would effectively make a Russian posting difficult for US diplomats with families.

Vehicles pull up to a Russian aircraft to load freight at Dulles International Airport Dec. 31, 2016, in Sterling, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. The special flight arrived to pickup Russian diplomats expelled by U.S. President Barack Obama as part of sanctions imposed on Russia for suspected cyberattacks during the U.S. election. (Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)

 

Russian embassy official said the plane had taken off with all the affected personnel and their families aboard.

A spokesperson for the Russian embassy in the US, confirmed the departure of the plane from Washington on New Year’s Day reported by the TASS news agency. The aircraft was part of the Rossiya airline’s special flight detachment group. The carrier for the president of Russia and other government officials.

“On its face, this is more than a slap on the wrists, but hardly an appropriate response to an unprecedented attack on our electoral system,” said Stewart Baker, a cybersecurity lawyer and former National Security Agency and Homeland Security Department official.

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