US counters Russian aggression with sanctions, expulsion of diplomats

By Caravanserai and AFP


A photo of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow on April 15. Ten Russian diplomats are being expelled in retaliation for the Kremlin's US election interference. [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday (April 15) in retaliation for the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.

In an executive order, President Joe Biden widened restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 organisations and individuals accused of meddling in the 2020 presidential election.

In addition, the Treasury Department, together with the European Union, Australia, Britain and Canada, sanctioned eight individuals and entities associated with Russia's occupation of Crimea in Ukraine.

Washington sanctioned six Russian technology companies accused of supporting Moscow's cyber intelligence activities, particularly the SolarWinds hack discovered in December, which compromised thousands of US government and private sector computer networks.

Meanwhile, the Treasury has prohibited US financial institutions from directly purchasing Russian-issued debt after June 14.

International support for US move

Biden's order "sends a signal that the United States will impose costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russia if it continues or escalates its destabilising international action", the White House said in a statement.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Washington was ready to impose more measures if necessary and that additional actions are already in place but "will remain unseen."

In Brussels, the NATO military alliance said US allies "support and stand in solidarity with the United States" following its April 15 announcement of actions.

NATO members cited a "sustained pattern" of Russian hostility.

The European Union issued a statement expressing "solidarity with the United States on the impact of malicious cyber activities, notably the SolarWinds cyber operation".

Malign influence

The latest tension comes against a backdrop of long-term anger in Washington at Russian election meddling and worries both in the United States and Europe over Russia's recent troop buildup on the border with Ukraine.

The White House statement listed in first place Moscow's "efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners," referring to Russia's persistent disinformation campaigns during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

The White House said the sanctions likewise respond to "malicious cyber activities against the United States and its allies and partners".

The statement also called out Russia's "targeting" of dissidents and journalists on foreign soil and its undermining of security in countries important to US national security.

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Glory to the USA!