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US expels 35 Russian intel agents over vote hacking

Washington, United States | AFP | 

The United States on Thursday fired back at Moscow over its meddling in the presidential election, announcing a series of tough sanctions against intelligence agencies, expulsions of agents and shutting down of Russian compounds on US soil.

“I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations aimed at the US election,” Obama said.

“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 behavior.”

Among the measures announced were sanctions against Russia’s FSB and GRU intelligence agencies; the designation of 35 Russian operatives as “persona non grata”; and the closure of two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the United States says are used “for intelligence-related purposes.”

US response to Russia hacking: key points

President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a series of diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia over the hacking which US officials say was aimed at disrupting the November election.

Below is a list of the key points outlined by the US government in a raft of documents from various agencies. T

Obama added that the US may take “a variety” of additional actions, “some of which will not be publicized.”

– Sanctioned entities –

Economic sanctions will hit Russia’s two main intelligence agencies — the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) — freezing their assets and blocking them from the US financial system.

Similar sanctions will be slapped on three other entities:

— the Special Technology Center in St. Petersburg, said to have assisted the GRU in intelligence operations;

— Zorsecurity, also known as Esage Lab, which provides technical research;

— the Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems, a group which provides training to the GRU.

– Sanctioned individuals –

— Current GRU chief Igor Valentinovich Korobov

— Deputy GRU chief Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov

— First deputy GRU chiefs Igor Olegovich Kostyukov and Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev.

A separate US Treasury order sanctions two Russian individuals for hacking into US banks, corporations, universities and other organizations:

— Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, accused of stealing over $100 million from computer hacking

— Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan, said to have led “malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of personal identifiers for private financial gain” by compromising three US-based e-commerce companies.

Bogachev and Belan are both on the FBI’s “most wanted” list, which means they could face criminal charges. A $3 million reward is offered for information on Bogachev and $100,000 for Belan.

– Expulsions –

The State Department declared 35 officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate in San Francisco “persona non grata,” requiring them to leave US soil within 72 hours.

“They were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status,” the White House said — diplomatic speak for the fact that they were “intelligence operatives,” as Obama called them.

– Compounds shut down –

Russian diplomats will also be denied access to two Moscow-owned compounds, one in Maryland and one in New York, according to the State Department.

Obama said the compounds were being used for “intelligence-related purposes.”

 

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