The U.S. Department of State has given full details on why President Barack Obama approved the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and rolled out a list of sanctions against Russia and its citizens.
The Deputy Spokesperson of the Department, Mr Mark Toner, said in a statement, obtained by our Correspondent in New York, that aside the alleged election hack, Russia harassed U.S. diplomats overseas.
He said these actions were in response to Russia’s harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that had been assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice.
“The State Department today declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status.
“The Department also informed the Russian Government that it would deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian Government.
“The Department took these actions as part of a comprehensive response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas that has increased over the last four years, including a significant increase in the last 12 months.”
According to Toner, these harassment involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details of U.S. personnel that put them at risk.
“In addition, the Russian Government has impeded our diplomatic operations by, among other actions, forcing the closure of 28 American corners which hosted cultural programmes and English-language teaching.
“Others are blocking our efforts to begin the construction of a new, safer facility for our Consulate General in St. Petersburg; and rejecting requests to improve perimeter security at the current, outdated facility in St. Petersburg.
“Today’s actions send a clear message that such behaviour is unacceptable and will have consequences,” Toner said.
President Barack Obama had earlier announced new sanctions against Russian people and companies that the U.S. government accused of hacking American institutions ahead of the election.
The Treasury Department also announced the new sanctions against five entities and four individuals on Thursday.
In the executive order, which Obama signed, the president said he was taking “additional steps to deal with the national emergency with respect to significant malicious cyber-enabled activities… in view of the increasing use of such activities to undermine democratic processes or institutions”.
The five institutions include: the Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems, an autonomous noncommercial organisation and Federal Security Service (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB).
The others are Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoe Razedyvatelnoe Upravelenie or GRU) and Special Technology Center; and Zorsecurity, formerly known as Esage Lab or Tsor Security.
The four people include Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, the first deputy chief of the GRU and Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan.
The others are Evgeniy Mikhaylovich Bogachev; Sergey Gizunov, the deputy chief of the GRU; Igor Korobov, chief of the GRU; and Igor Kostyukov, the first deputy chief of the GRU.