The outgoing US president has vowed to act against the Kremlin for meddling in the presidential elections. The American intelligence community has blamed Moscow for cyberattacks that compromised Democratic Party servers.
US President Barack Obama on Friday said he confronted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a face-to-face meeting ahead of the US elections, telling him to "cut it out" or suffer the consequences for Russian cyberattacks.
"In early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didn't," Obama said during his final year-end news conference.
"And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process," he added.
The American intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has reported Russian cyber-meddling in the run-up to the US presidential election in a bid to bolster support for its preferred candidate, New York real estate mogul and President-elect Donald Trump.
Over the summer, cybercriminals reportedly based in Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee's servers, gaining access to tens of thousands of emails.
In October, whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks published emails obtained from the private email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's executive campaign manager and former chief of staff in former President Bill Clinton's cabinet.
Independent cybersecurity analysts have also accused Russia of involvement in the cyberattacks that effectively undermined Clinton's 2016 White House bid.
'Clear message to Russia'
The outgoing president vowed to retaliate against Moscow for the alleged cyberattacks targeting the electoral process.
"Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you," Obama noted, placing the blame directly on Russia's president.
"Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin," he said. "I mean, this is a pretty hierarchical operation last I checked; there's not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States."
Obama also expressed bewilderment over a poll showing one-third of Republican Party members approve of Putin. "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave," he said.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have sunk to lows not seen since the Cold War, most notably in the wake of Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
ls/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)