Russia Threatens to Throw Out U.S. Diplomats in Retaliation for Obama’s Sanctions

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Sanctions follow U.S. assessment Russia used cyberattacks to interfere with election

President Barack Obama sanctioned Russian government intelligence agencies and expelled 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the U.S. in what he called a partial response to Russia’s alleged use of cyberattacks to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.

Russia threatened to retaliate, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying “the principle of reciprocity applies here.” He said Russian President Vladimir Putin would formulate a response that would create “considerable discomfort in the same areas” for the U.S., according to the Interfax news agency.

The sanctions designate Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the Main Intelligence Directorate, or the GRU, for “tampering, altering or causing the misappropriation of information” with the purpose or effect of interfering with the election. The measures also designate Russia’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service, for assisting the GRU in those activities.

The administration also sanctioned three Russian companies it accused of providing material support for the GRU’s cyber operations and four top Russian officials who run the military intelligence agency.

At the same time, the State Department expelled 35 Russian intelligence operatives allegedly serving under diplomatic cover from the Russian embassy in Washington and the Russian consulate in San Francisco. The officials and their families were given 72 hours to leave the U.S. after the State Department said they “were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status.” The deadline is noon on Sunday.

The State Department also notified Russia that as of Friday Moscow would be denied access to two Russian government-owned compounds in the U.S. One is a dacha, or summer retreat, for Russian embassy officials on the eastern shore of Maryland, and the other is a dacha compound for New York-based Russian diplomats on Long Island, a U.S. official said. The White House accused Russia of using the recreational compounds for “intelligence-related purposes.”

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also released a joint analysis report, titled “Grizzly Steppe,” giving additional technical details about the election hacking.

Mr. Obama said the steps were “in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election” and followed repeated warnings to Moscow.

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Source: Wall Street Journal | CAROL E. LEE and PAUL SONNE