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Prez Obama expels 35 Russian spies over election meddling

Russian Embassy responds with pic of 'LAME' duck, says move is 'Cold War deja vu'

President Barack Obama has ordered the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies in response to "malicious cyber activity and harassment" by Putin's government for attempts to undermine the 2016 election.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Obama ordered a number of actions in response to "the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations aimed at the US election."

Under an executive order, the Obama administration has provided additional authority for responding to the cyber threats.

It has sanctioned nine entities and individuals: including 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.

He said the decision was a "necessary and appropriate response" to efforts to harm US interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.

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.

The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes, and is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives.

Obama said the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are also releasing declassified technical information [PDF] on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity "to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities."

In a statement he said: "All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions."

Incoming president Donald Trump, responded in a statement that it is time to “move on to bigger and better things.”

He added: "Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated about the facts of this situation."

The Russian Embassy in London responded with a tweet of a picture of duck with the word LAME written across the bottom.

"President Obama expels 35 🇷🇺 diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl 🇺🇸 people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm," it tweeted.

In October, the Obama administration found that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the US election process. "These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government," said Obama.

Obama said 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 publicised.

"In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance.

"To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections." ®

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