President Barack Obama issued a series of executive orders against Russian individuals and intelligence agencies on Thursday in retaliation for their efforts to influence and subvert November’s presidential election.
“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” the statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Beyond these sanctions, the Obama administration has also ordered the expulsion of thirty-five Russian diplomats and the closing of two Russian compounds on U.S. soil. Although a part of a separate statement, these orders also pertain directly to Russian hacking, as well as what the White House has called “a campaign of intimidation” against American diplomats.
“These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice,” one White House official said.
The United States has complained on multiple occasions about Russian security agents and traffic police harassing American diplomats in the Russian capital, prompting U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, to bring up his concerns to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov in the past.
“By imposing costs on the Russian diplomats in the United States, by denying them access to the two facilities, we hope the Russian government reevaluates its own actions, which have impeded the ability and safety of our own embassy personnel in Russia,” the official said.
The two compounds that will be closed, located in New York and Maryland, were reportedly used for Russian intelligence gathering, according to the White House’s statement. The officials listed in the president’s executive order will be given seventy-two hours to depart the United States and access to the closed facilities will be terminated for all Russian officials at noon on Friday.
These actions, though expansive and unprecedented, do not account for the entirety of Obama’s planned reprisals for Russian interference in the election. President Obama hinted at the possibility of further, more discreet, actions to be taken by the United States.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” Obama said. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized.”
Russia has denied any role in the hacking of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails, as well as other activities American intelligence agencies suggest were intended to undermine American confidence in the election process or the Democratic candidate.
“Frankly speaking, we are tired of lies about Russian hackers that continue to be spread in the United States from the very top,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, in a prepared statement on Wednesday.
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama said in his statement on Thursday.
The list of people and agencies named in the executive order include the GRU and FSB, both Russian intelligence services, as well as four individual officers within the GRU, three companies that provided material support to GRU operations, and two Russian individuals that are accused of misappropriating funds and personally identifying information on the GRU’s behalf.
This is the first time individuals involved with the Russian hacking scandal have been publicly named by American officials.
President Elect Donald Trump is poised to take office on January 20th. He and his team have repeatedly underplayed the significance of Russian involvement in his victory over Hillary Clinton last November, and Trump himself is noted for having good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many were already wondering if existing sanctions put in place on Russia as a result of its military annexation of Crimea in 2014 would stand under a Trump presidency, and these new executive orders could also be overturned once he takes office next month.
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