Russia Expels 10 American Diplomats in Sanctions Tit-for-Tat

The retaliatory measures out of Moscow come one day after the United States gave marching orders to 10 of Russia’s diplomats.

The entrance gate of the Embassy of the Russian Federation is seen in Washington on Thursday, April 15. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CN) —  Russia expelled 10 U.S. diplomats from its country Friday, firing back one day after the U.S. issued sanctions against the Kremlin for interfering in the 2020 U.S. election and orchestrating a massive cybersecurity breach.

On top of these evictions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted at a press conference Friday, Moscow will also sanction eight U.S. officials and take steps to cease U.S. nongovernmental organizations from playing a part in Russian politics. Russia also plans to prevent the U.S. Embassy from hiring Russians as support staff, he said. 

The moves follow a Thursday executive action signed by President Joe Biden that expelled 10 Russian diplomats, sanctioned dozens of Russian officials and companies, and banned U.S. financial institutions from buying ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds directly from major Russian banking institutions, starting in mid-June.

Another 32 entities and individuals said to have meddled in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by spreading disinformation at the direction of the Kremlin were sanctioned Thursday by the Treasury Department. The already indicted Russian and Ukrainian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik is among the sanctioned individua.

Expanding finally on allegations first raised in the prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the Treasury Department said Kilimnik had provided “sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” to Russian intelligence services. Back in 2019, special counsel Robert Mueller had said it could not determine what Kilimnik had done with the polling data given to him by the Trump campaign.

Several individuals tied to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, Alexei Gromov, and several front companies accused of helping Prigozhin evade previous sanctions, were also slapped with new sanctions Thursday.

Tensions have been growing between Biden and Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin in recent weeks. Last month, Biden said he believed Putin was a “killer,” after which, in an effort to preserve ties, Putin offered to speak with the president by phone. Biden said he opted not to impose tougher sanctions following talks on Tuesday. He’s offered to meet with his Russian counterpart in a third country this summer. Russia has yet to respond to the proposal. Both notably powerful countries appear to be treading carefully in attempts to mitigate escalation.

Alongside Thursday’s order, the U.S. also identified Russia as the perpetrator behind the hack of Texas-based company SolarWinds, discovered in late 2020, and it sanctioned eight individuals and entities tied to Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had warned Thursday that Russia would “undoubtedly” retaliate against “such aggressive behavior.”

“Washington should realize that it will have to pay a price for the degradation of the bilateral ties,” Zakharova said.

On Friday, Russia’s Lavrov denied that Moscow participated in either the SolarWinds hack or in 2020 U.S. election interference. Lavrov warned that Russia could take “painful measures” to harm American business in its country, but it will not do so immediately. 

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