USA expels Russian diplomats, imposes dozens of new sanctions

Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen during drills at an unknown location near the border of Russian-annexed Crimea Ukraine

To that effect, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia for "undermining the conduct of free and fair elections and democratic institutions" in the U.S. and for its role in facilitating the sprawling SolarWinds hack, while also barring six technology companies in the country that provide support to the cyber program run by Russian Intelligence Services.

The moves marked the first actions the United States has announced it has taken against Russian Federation in reaction to last year's massive cyber hack against USA federal agencies, known as the SolarWinds breach, and for the "bounties" it had reportedly offered in Afghanistan.

Sanctions against six Russian companies that support the country's cyber efforts represent the first retaliatory measures against the Kremlin for the hack familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach, with the US explicitly linking the intrusion to the SVR, a Russian intelligence agency.

The White House said the us would expel 10 personnel from Russia's diplomatic mission in Washington, including, "representatives of Russian intelligence services".

According to a senior administration official speaking to journalists Thursday morning, President Biden previewed the list of responses in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week. The Biden administration also formally attributed the SolarWinds breach to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

"Given the sensitivity of this matter, which involves the safety and well-being of our forces, it is being handled through diplomatic, military and intelligence channels", the White House said. NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow is on the line.

New financial restrictions, consisting of efforts to target Russian sovereign debt, will be put in place, which could hurt Russia's economy.

The Treasury Department sanctioned 32 organizations and individuals for their alleged influence operations aimed at the USA election.

Biden on Tuesday spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin to raise concerns about these issues and the build up of Russian forces in Crimea and along the border with Ukraine, even as he proposed a summit between the two men.

At the same time, the US National Security Agency (NSA), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have today issued an alert to expose further SVR-linked exploitation of five common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) to target both public and private sector organisations in the US and around the world.

United States prepares sanctions against Russian Federation over cyber attacks, election interference
Mr Biden also proposed a meeting with Mr Putin "in a third country" that could allow the leaders to find areas to work together. The White House, the US State Department and the US Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biden urged Putin this week in their second call to "de-escalate tensions" following a Russian military buildup on Ukraine's border, and said the US would "act firmly in defence of its national interests" regarding Russian intrusions and election interference.

Sources said the Kremlin told Sullivan on Wednesday that Washington must refrain from introducing new sanctions on Russian Federation if it wants to mend ties.

In a television interview last month, Biden replied "I do" when asked if he thought Putin was a "killer".

The measures blacklisted Russian companies, expelled Russian diplomats and placed limits on the Russian sovereign debt market.

After the sanctions were announced, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that "such aggressive behaviour will undoubtedly trigger a resolute retaliation".

The Russian Foreign Ministry said new USA sanctions go against the interests of the two countries and vowed to take retaliatory action.

Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, described the sanctions as "proportionate measures to defend American interests in response to harmful Russian actions". That being said, there's a lot of sanctions skepticism out there.

"Washington should realize that it will have to pay a price for the degradation of the bilateral ties", Zakharova said, adding that "the responsibility for that will fully lie with the United States". USA investors make up about half of the foreign holdings, he said. The sanctions presumably meant to send a clear retributive message to Russian Federation and to deter similar acts in the future come amid an already tense relationship between the U.S. and Russian Federation.

"We have no desire to be in an escalatory cycle with Russian Federation", an official told reporters. And the goal is to send a signal that cyberattacks will lead to retaliation, even though at the same time the administration is saying, look, we want to have a good relationship with Russian Federation. "We have indicated that we seek a stable and predictable relationship going forward".

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