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World

US imposes sanctions on Moscow, expels Russian diplomats

  • After Donald Trump's mixed signals to Russia -- and accusations that the Republican even seemed intent on shielding Putin from criticism -- the Democratic chair of the Senate foreign relations committee cheered Biden's approach.
Published April 16, 2021

WASHINGTON: The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.

President Joe Biden's broadside against Russia came the same week as he offered to meet President Vladimir Putin for their first summit -- an idea he reiterated in a speech Thursday, explaining that despite the sanctions it was now "time to deescalate."

Washington is "not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia," Biden said, calling the sanctions "proportionate."

In his executive order, the Democratic president widened restrictions on US 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.

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 destabilizing international action," the White House said in a statement.

The Kremlin said Thursday that sanctions would not "help" momentum for a summit and the Russian foreign ministry warned a Russian riposte was "inevitable."

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 its European allies over Russia's recent troop build-up on the border of Ukraine.

The almost fatal poisoning and ongoing imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, who is effectively the last open political opponent to Putin, has further spiked concerns in the West.

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

Despite this, Biden stressed he wanted to work with Russia and that a summit could allow them to "launch a strategic stability dialogue" on a host of global issues, ranging from Covid-19 to Iran's nuclear program.

On Ukraine, however, Biden said he'd "strongly urged" Putin "to refrain from any military action" and he "affirmed US support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

After Donald Trump's mixed signals to Russia -- and accusations that the Republican even seemed intent on shielding Putin from criticism -- the Democratic chair of the Senate foreign relations committee cheered Biden's approach.

"It is reassuring and frankly a relief to have a president willing to clearly call Putin what he is -- a killer, a military aggressor in Ukraine, a source of malign influence, a cyber threat," Senator Bob Menendez said.

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