Kremlin rep slams US sanctions, says they destroy diplomatic relations

A Russian official told Interfax that U.S. sanctions against Russia "are the signs of a real paranoia."

On Thursday, the Obama administration unveiled new retaliatory measures against Russia for directing cyberattacks intended to interfere with American elections, allegations that Russia has consistently denied. Separately, the U.S. also expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of alleged harassment by Russia against American diplomats in Moscow.

Russian officials condemned the measures and accused the Obama administration of trying to destroy diplomatic relations between the countries.

Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, added that Thursday's actions were intended to permanently "spoil Russian-American relations" and "inflict a major setback" for the incoming Trump administration's foreign policy.

"The U.S. sanctions against Russia and the expulsion of 35 diplomats in 72 hours are the signs of a real paranoia. Without any grounds for it another round of extremely aggressive steps towards our country are being made basing only on mere assertions," Leonid Slutsky, head of Russia's State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Interfax.

Although the Obama administration is on its way out, Thursday's announcement has "shown its real face," said Andrei Krasov, first deputy head of Russia's State Duma Defense Committee. He questioned U.S. intentions behind the sanctions and suggested the new measures could weaken "actions against the international terrorism in Syria."

Relations between Russia and the U.S. were already on the rocks amid substantial differences on Ukraine and Syria.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia announced a cease-fire between opposition groups and the Syrian government. Putin added that the parties are prepared to start peace talks.

— NBC News contributed to this report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Sergei Karpukhin | Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin