U.S. imposes sanctions on Moscow, expels Russian diplomats

US to announce fresh sanctions on Russia over SolarWinds hack

US officials also made official what had always been rumored: They believe with "high confidence" that Russia's foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, carried out the hacking campaign that has exploited software made by contractor SolarWinds and other vendors to infiltrate nine USA agencies and 100 private firms.

Last month, the U.S. sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a almost fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.

The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sweeping sanctions on Russian intelligence operatives for their alleged interference in the 2020 US election, and on Russian companies for allegedly supporting Moscow's extensive cyber-espionage operations.

The White House said the USA would expel 10 personnel from Russia's diplomatic mission in Washington, including, "representatives of Russian intelligence services". The Obama administration expelled diplomats from the USA in 2016 in response to interference in that years presidential election.

The order issues wide-bore priorities for the Treasury to bar transactions in the U.S. by anyone the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) determines to have been involved in a range of activities, including working with the Russian tech sector or engaging in "actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the United States or overseas".

The U.S. also said it was sanctioning "five individuals and three entities related to Russia's occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and its severe human rights abuses against the local population".

Iran starts up advanced centrifuges in nuclear deal breach
While it has declined to elaborate, that appears to exclude sanctions formally unrelated to nuclear issues covered by the deal. This week, delegates from Washington and Tehran held separate meetings with intermediaries including the European Union.

In addition, Treasury Department targeted Russia's sovereign wealth, prohibiting US financial institutions from certain dealings with Russian sovereign debt. Zakharova said the US actions would lead to a "decisive rebuff" from Russian Federation.

The US administration said that although it wanted a stable and predictable relationship with Moscow, it was clear that it had to defend its interests and impose costs on the Russian government over its actions in cyber space. Presidents Biden and Putin spoke on the phone earlier this week, and in its readout of that conversation, the White House emphasized its support for Ukrainian territorial sovereignty - a theme absent in the Kremlin's official account.

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

Russian Federation summoned the US ambassador to Moscow and warned that it will respond.

The Kremlin said on Thursday that sanctions would not "help" momentum for a summit and once the White House unveiled its measures, the Russian foreign ministry warned a Russian response was "inevitable". The White House said it was part of an effort to "disrupt the coordinated efforts of Russian officials, proxies and intelligence agencies to delegitimize our electoral process".

"Such aggressive behavior, without question, will receive a decisive push back, a response to the sanctions is unavoidable", she said.

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