Lavrov to Putin: Expel US diplomats over hacking spat

In apparent tit-for-tat move, FM Lavrov calls on Putin to evict US staff day after Washington imposed sanctions.

US Embassy in Moscow
File: The outgoing Obama administration has accused Russia of cyber hacking the recent US election [Yuri Kochetkov/EPA]

Russia on Friday announced plans to expel 35 US diplomats and ban US diplomatic staff from using a dacha, or country house, and a warehouse in Moscow in retaliation to Washington’s sanctions, Russian news agencies reported.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed the measures to President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia’s foreign ministry … has requested that the Russian president approve declaring as personae non gratae 31 employees of the US embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the US consulate in St Petersburg,” Lavrov said in televised comments.

US President Barack Obama had all but accused Putin of personally ordering a cyber-hack that many Democrats believe damaged Hillary Clinton’s chances in November’s closely fought election with Republican foe Donald Trump.

On Thursday, Washington moved to expel 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in a response that Obama said was “necessary and appropriate” against “efforts to harm US interests”.

The outgoing US leader said a report by his administration about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election would be delivered to Congress in the coming days.

“The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity,” he said in a statement.

‘Anti-Russia agony’

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, said that the US administration had not provided any proof of Russia’s involvement other than the flat accusations that 17 US intelligence agencies say so.

Lavrov has said that Russia would not leave the sanctions unanswered and said that allegations that Russia interfered in US elections were baseless.

Earlier on Friday, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, said the outgoing Obama administration was ending its term in “anti-Russia agony”.

“It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia agony. RIP,” Medvedev tweeted.

READ MORE: Are Russia and the US entering a new Cold War?

Speaking after the announcement of the US sanctions on Russia, Trump – currently on holiday in Florida – said that it was time for the US “to move on”.

However, the president-elect also vowed to meet intelligence leaders to learn more.

Lilit Gevorgyan, Russia analyst with IHS Global Insight, told Al Jazeera: “What we’re seeing is a mismatch between what the outgoing Obama administration is saying, and what the newly elected president is saying about Russia … Yes, perhaps Russia is celebrating a victory, but I believe that it’s a short-term victory. What is worrying is what’s coming next.”

Russia vows ‘reprisals’ over US sanctions

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies