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Putin: Russia Won’t Expel US Diplomats in Retaliation for Sanctions

VOA-Ken Schwartz

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will not expel U.S. diplomats in response to sanctions imposed Thursday by U.S. President Barack Obama for interference by Russian intelligence agencies in November’s U.S. national election.

“We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not expel anyone,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

Earlier, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying he had recommended that Putin expel 35 U.S. diplomats and ban U.S. diplomatic staff from using an embassy vacation house in western Moscow and a warehouse in the north of the city.

Obama Thursday hit Russia with several retaliatory measures, imposing sanctions on two intelligence agencies, expelling 35 agents and closing two Russian compounds inside the United States. Russia immediately denounced the sanctions as unlawful and threatened to retaliate.

Obama called his actions “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who had scoffed at allegations of Russian interference in the election, said Thursday he would meet with intelligence leaders next week for a briefing on the situation.

Obama’s action coincided with the release Thursday of a 13-page joint analysis by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that blamed Russia’s intelligence agencies for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election and provided technical details, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in their cyber hacking campaign.

Among the actions ordered by Obama are sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities: the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the FSB, its foreign intelligence service, four GRU officers, and three companies that provided material support to the GRU.

In addition, Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan were sanctioned. The Treasury Department calls them “notorious criminals” who are responsible for the cyber theft of more than $100 million dollars from U.S. banks, companies and other American firms.

Thirty-five Russian government officials in Washington and in the consulate in San Francisco were given 72 hours to leave the United States for “acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status and consular activities.”

Russian officials also will be denied access to what the U.S. State Department calls two Russian government-owned recreational compounds in Maryland and New York. This is after U.S. diplomats in Moscow were harassed and physically assaulted.

“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,” Obama said in announcing the sanctions.

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