Russian Diplomats, Expelled On Hacking Charges, Leave US
The decision was allegedly triggered by a campaign of harassment by Russia against American diplomats in Moscow.
Russian diplomats who were expelled by an order of US President Barack Obama left Washington on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported, citing Russia's embassy.
"The plane took off, everyone has left," RIA quoted the embassy's press service as saying.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to expel anyone in retaliation, saying he would consider the actions of President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on 20 January when deciding on further steps in Russia-US relations.
Last week, the United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior US official said on Thursday.
The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the US election.
The Obama administration also announced a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for hacking into US political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, two US officials said.
Trump, who takes office on 20 January, has called for better relations with Russia. It was not clear if he will be able to immediately overturn the measures announced on Thursday.
Russian diplomats will have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday, the official added.
"These actions were taken in response to the Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats and have assessed them to be inconsistent with diplomatic practice," the official said.
The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed US diplomats in Moscow, and US Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.
By imposing costs on the Russian diplomats in the United States, by denying them access to the two facilities, we hope the Russian government re-evaluates its own actions, which have impeded the ability and safety of our own embassy personnel in Russia.Senior US Official
The US official declined to name the Russian diplomats who would be affected, although it is understood that Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be among the expelled leaders.
New US sanctions on Russia are counterproductive and will harm a restoration of bilateral ties, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
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