World holds breath as Biden expels 10 Russian diplomats in fury at Putin–retaliation fears

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The White House said sanctions were in response to Moscow’s “election interference, activities targeting dissidents,  and malicious cyber activities”. Measures include new prohibitions on certain dealings in Russian sovereign debt and targeted sanctions on technology companies, the US treasury department confirmed.

Among others, the sanctions target the CEO of russian construction firm Mostotrest.

The Treasury has also sanctioned five people, and three entities tied to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

President Joe Biden will issue an executive order on Thursday authorizing the US government to sanction any sector of the Russian economy and barring US  banks from participating in the primary markets for rouble-denominated bonds.

One Treasury official said: “The American people should not be complicit in the Russian government’s malign activities by directly funding the Russian state at a time when the Russian government is attempting to undermine our sovereignty and threaten our allies and partners.

“We don’t think that we need to continue on a negative trajectory in the relationship.. “However we will defend our national interests and impose costs for Russian government actions that seem to harm our sovereignty.”

He added: “Our goal here is number one to demonstrate resolve by taking an impactful step.

“The second goal is to be very clear in our signaling that we have the option to escalate in a far more forceful way if we so choose, and that really will be determined by Russia’s actions.”

The Kremlin has vowed to respond in kind to any new “illegal” new US sanctions on Russia and said any new measures would reduce the chances of a summit between Mr Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin taking place.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would wait to see what happened before commenting in detail.

He also said that the situation around Ukraine remained tense and that it was premature to talk about de-escalation, despite reports that the United States had cancelled the deployment of two of its warships to the Black Sea.

A Russian spokeswoman subsequently said sanctions were “against the interests of both countries”, while warning it was “inevitable” that Moscow would respond.

In total, 30 entities have been santioned, as well as orders issued expelling about 10 Russian officials from the United States.

Russia denies meddling in US elections, orchestrating a cyber hack that used US tech company SolarWinds Corp to penetrate US government networks, and using a nerve agent to poison Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

It has also brushed off allegations of putting bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan.

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.

Ukraine claims upwards of 100,000 Russian troops are currently close to its eastern border and in Crimea.

Defence Minister Andrii Taran further claims Mr Putin is moving nuclear missiles to Crimea in a development which would ratchet up tensions still further.

(More to follow)



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