President Obama struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.
The measures, taken during the last days of Obama’s presidency, mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties and set up a potential flashpoint between incoming President-elect Donald Trump and fellow Republicans in Congress over how to deal with Moscow.
The administration also penalized four top officers of one of those services, the powerful military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U.
Two compounds, one in New York and one in Maryland, used by Russia for intelligence purposes will also be shut down.
The new sanctions amend a previous executive order from the president, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” which was made in response to North Korea’s hack of Sony.
It was not clear whether Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, would seek to roll back the measures once he takes office on the 20th of January.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.