Moscow is weighing up its response to the move by Washington to expel 35 Russian diplomats, promising that its retaliation will cause "significant discomfort" to the US.

As relations between the countries plunged even lower after the Obama administration gave 35 diplomats 72 hours to leave the country over claims that Russia interfered with the US presidential elections, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin said Moscow would respond in kind.

The Russian presidential press spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "While I can't say what the response will be, although we know here we have no alternative but to act in according with the principles of reciprocity."

He added, according to the Russian news service RIA, there was "no immediate urgency" to act but "that in any case, the decision with regard to such steps will be taken by the president of Russia."

Meanwhile, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Konstantin Dolgov said the Obama administration was trying to damage any possible restoration of good ties between Washington and Moscow, telling Interfax: "I can only reaffirm that this sanctions hysteria demonstrates how completely clueless the outgoing US administration is".

The White House imposed sanctions on Russia's two leading intelligence services and four officers they claim ordered cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and other institutions. Russia denies the claims, saying they are "unfounded".

Russian security services expert Andrei Soldatov told the Moscow Times that the two hackers added to the sanctions list were not involved in the cyberattacks, and that the decision by the US was because "either the US intelligence community doesn't want to reveal how exactly its investigation was organised or it doesn't have this information."

Obama and Putin
Relations between the US and Russia have soured under the Obama presidency Reuters

Russian foreign policy analyst Vladimir Frolov added: "I don't really understand how it will harm the Kremlin".

Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee said the US move represented "the death throes of political corpses", according to RIA.

Meanwhile, the Twitter feed of the Russian embassy in London, tweeted an image of a duck with the word "LAME" across it, calling the Obama administration "hapless".