U.S. expels Russian diplomats, imposes new sanctions over SolarWinds hack, election interference

Daniel Fowler
April 16, 2021

About 10 Russian diplomats are expected to be expelled according to another senior administration official. Russian Federation denies all the allegations.

His comments follow the USA announcement Thursday it would expel 10 Russian diplomats as well place sanctions on 32 Russia-related individuals and companies accused of interfering in the 2020 presidential election, spreading disinformation and other harmful actions. He said the United States would "act firmly in defense of its national interests" in relation to Russian activities and election interference.

On the same day, Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, telling him that the new anti-Russian sanctions will shortly be followed by "a series of retaliatory measures". A ministry spokeswoman also said a possible summit could be imperiled.

Discovered in December, the SolarWinds hackers were able to get access to government and business networks through the IT management company SolarWinds's Orion software supply chain.

As part of the administration's actions, the Treasury Department unveiled sanctions against 32 entities and individuals in response to Russian government-led efforts to influence the 2020 USA presidential election, as well as eight individuals and entities linked to Russia's ongoing occupation of Crimea.

Biden, who also proposed a US-Russian summit, is trying to strike a balance between deterring what Washington sees as hostile Russian behaviour, while avoiding a deeper deterioration in US-Russian ties and preserving some room for cooperation.

An executive order signed by Biden gives additional authorities to act against Russian Federation that the USA isn't exercising immediately and would prefer not to have to use, an administration official said.

"The scope and scale of this compromise combined with Russia's history of carrying out reckless and disruptive cyber operations makes it a national security concern", the Treasury Department said.

Biden said there were "critical global challenges that require Russian Federation and the United States to work together, including reining in nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, ending this (coronavirus) pandemic globally, and meeting the existential crisis of climate change".

Vladimir Putin has been accused of sponsoring cyber attacks against the West
Vladimir Putin has been accused of sponsoring cyber attacks against the West Credit GETTY IMAGES

Commenting on Biden's proposal for a meeting between the two leaders in a third country, Peskov said it would "take some time to analyze the proposal".

The U.S. government's efforts to call out companies working on behalf of Russian government hacking and information operations is just the tip of the spear.

Biden barred USA financial institutions from taking part in the primary market for rouble-denominated Russian sovereign bonds from June 14.

Demarais added that the sanctions on sovereign debt are less stringent than the initial market reaction would suggest, since they only target the primary debt market and can therefore "easily be circumvented via the secondary market". The sanctions are certain to exacerbate tensions with Russian Federation, which promised a retaliatory response.

In particular, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned 32 entities and individuals carrying out Russian government-directed attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and other acts of disinformation and interference.

In concert with the European Union, Britain, Australia and Canada, the Treasury also put sanctions on eight individuals associated with Moscow's occupation of Crimea, which Russian Federation annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

In addition, the Biden administration is also expelling ten members of Russia's diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., including representatives of its intelligence services.

In a joint statement, the agencies said mitigating these CVEs was critically important as U.S. and allied networks were constantly being scanned, targeted and exploited by Moscow-backed groups.

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