In one of his last acts before leaving office in the New Year, President Barack Obama has ordered 35 Russian spies out of the country as part of sanctions ordered for suspected hacking to influence the US presidential election.

While he fell short of naming President Vladimir Putin, President Obama said he believed that the hacking was ordered “at the highest level”. However, the Kremlin has now pledged a retaliation, without giving details about what form that would take.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the foreigh policy committee in the Russian Duma, has said there is no question that reciprocal steps will definitely be taken. He said that the US embassy in Moscow and also the consulates could be “cut down to size”.

Retaliation planned

Meanwhile, President Putin’s spokesperson described Mr Obama’s actions as “unpredicatable” and “aggressive,” and added that appropriate steps would be taken to retaliate. President Putin is also understood to have indicated that he does not believe measures announced by President Obama will be effective, given that he is stepping down to make way for President-elect Donald Trump in the New Year.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move had been made just to cause damage to the relationship between the US and Russia, as well as trying to land a blow on Mr Trump as he enters office with foreign policy plans now already in place.

However, Whitehouse officials said they did expect the sanctions would still be actioned even after entrepreneur Mr Trump taks over as US president. The dramatic move follows leaks on Wikileaks of secrets of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party. Mrs Clinton is said to believe that the leaks had a huge impact on her election campaign and her subsequent loss to Mr Trump. However, Wikileaks has denied that its source was Moscow.