President Barack Obama today sanctioned Russia and expelled 35 of its agents over alleged Russian hacking during the US presidential polls, but his counterpart Vladimir Putin surprisingly refused to retaliate, saying he will watch the moves of President-elect Donald Trump.
"All Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions," Obama said in a statement as he ordered a number of actions in response to the Russia's alleged aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations targeting the US election.
"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 US interests in violation of established international norms of behaviour," he said yesterday.
The executive order issued by Obama provided additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine US election processes and institutions, or those of its allies or partners.
"Using this new authority, 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," he said.
"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.
"Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity, to help network defenders in the US and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia's global campaign of malicious cyber activities," he said.
Obama said these actions are not the sum total of US 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," he said.
Obama said the US and its allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia's efforts to undermine established international norms of behaviour, and interfere with democratic governance," Obama said.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Putin in response to Obama's sanctions said Russia "will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not expel anyone".
"According to international practice, Russia has all the grounds for a comparable response," Putin said shortly after Russian Foreign Ministry sought his approval for a tit-for-tat move.
"Reserving the right to retaliatory measures, we... Will be planning our next steps in restoring US-Russian relations based on the policies pursued by the administration of president Donald Trump," Putin said.