United States imposes sanctions on Moscow, expels 10 Russian diplomats

15 Avril, 2021, 23:56 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • US set to slap new sanctions on Russian officials as soon as Thursday - Sources

"The Biden administration is preparing to announce sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats from the United States in response to a massive Russian hacking campaign that breached vital federal agencies as well as for election interference", a senior administration official said.

The announcement follows an expansive review of Russia's activities, ranging from its interference in the 2020 US presidential elections to placing bounties on USA soldiers in Afghanistan, and includes a specific, tailored set of responses, leaving options for future action depending on how Moscow responds.

Russian Federation swiftly denounced the actions and warned of retaliation.

The sanctions foreshadowed for weeks by the administration would represent the first retaliatory action announced against the Kremlin for last years hack familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach.

In an executive order, Biden widened restrictions on United States banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 individuals accused of meddling in the 2020 presidential election. US intelligence officials alleged in a declassified report last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to help Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid for reelection as president, though there's no evidence Russia or anyone else changed votes or manipulated the outcome. They are the administration's second major foreign policy move in two days, following the announcement of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden planned to deliver remarks about Russian Federation at the White House at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the White House said. For example, the US government issued a strong statement about the reported Russian bounties on USA soldiers in Afghanistan, which "is being handled through diplomatic, military and intelligence channels", according to the White House. During the background call with journalists on Thursday morning, a senior administration official declined to specify how the administration selected the specific personnel beyond stating that the US government had "determined that they were acting in a manner inconsistent with their status" in the United States.

Other measures are expected as well, although the administration is not likely to announce them.

In addition, the Treasury Department targeted Russia's sovereign wealth, prohibiting US financial institutions from certain dealings with Russian sovereign debt.

"The Biden administration has been clear that the United States desires a relationship with Russian Federation that is stable and predictable".

Reports of alleged "bounties" surfaced previous year, with the Trump administration coming under fire for not raising the issue directly with Russian Federation.

Through an executive order released on Thursday, the USA government now has "strengthened authorities" to sanction Russian entities and individuals for malign activity.

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The first US official said the Russian rouble-denominated sovereign debt market was valued at about $185 billion, about a quarter of which is held by foreign investors.

It is unclear if these sanctions will be enough to change Russian behavior, the officials said. "In Washington, they must realize that it's necessary to pay for the degradation of bilateral relations".

The British government said it "made clear the UK's support for the actions announced by President Biden" as Russia's top envoy in London was summoned to see FCDO Permanent Under Secretary Philip Barton.

DETROW: That's right. Biden had made it clear throughout the campaign, the transition, early on that he was going to treat Russian Federation differently and be tougher.

The measures are to be announced on Thursday, according to the official, who was not authorised to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin about the coming sanctions during a phone call on Tuesday, according to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

INSKEEP: Well, if they're sending this signal, how does that mesh with the other signal they're sending by President Biden calling up Vladimir Putin and saying, I'd love to have a meeting? US investors make up about half of the foreign holdings, he said. Putin later recalled his ambassador to the U.S. and pointed at the United States history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.

It remained unclear whether the USA actions would actually result in changed behavior especially since past measures by the United States have failed to bring an end to Russian hacking. And though Trump was often reluctant to criticize Putin his administration also expelled diplomats in 2018 for Russian Federation alleged poisoning of an ex-intelligence officer in Britain.

Besides infiltrating the networks of Microsoft, FireEye, Malwarebytes, and Mimecast, the attackers are also said to have used SolarWinds as a stepping stone to breaching several USA agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NSA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, Homeland Security, Energy, Treasury, and the National Institutes of Health.

For its part, the United Kingdom government's National Cyber Security Centre said Thursday that it was "highly likely" that the SVR was behind the SolarWinds breaches.

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