Russia’s top diplomat has announced the country is expelling 10 American diplomats from the country in response to sanctions the White House imposed on the Kremlin through an executive order on Thursday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that President Joe Biden’s executive order blacklisting some of his country’s private companies and financial institutions and kicking out diplomats over alleged interference in the 2020 election would be met with an equal reaction from Moscow.
Reuters reported Lavrov announced the expulsions of the U.S. government employees when speaking to reporters.
He said the Kremlin was considering additional “painful” measures to strike back at Washington but did not expound on the threat.
Biden’s executive order accused Russia of engaging in behavior intended to “harm” American and interests globally and domestically.
“The Biden administration has been clear that the United States desires a relationship with Russia that is stable and predictable. We do not think that we need to continue on a negative trajectory,” the Biden executive order said. “However, we have also been clear — publicly and privately — that we will defend our national interests and impose costs for Russian Government actions that seek to harm us.”
The Biden order accused Russian state actors of “efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners” and also accused the country of engaging in cyberattacks aimed at government institutions and individual Americans.
The executive action ordered the Department of the Treasury to impose restrictions on business between some Russian entities and banks.
“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,” the order read.
“The United States is expelling ten personnel from the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, DC. The personnel include representatives of Russian intelligence services,” Biden’s order said.
The punch and counterpunch came late this week amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
“Russian forces massing on Ukraine’s border have daubed assault vehicles with ominous ‘invasion stripes,’ heightening fears of all-out war breaking out,” the report said.
The Daily Mirror said Russia “will soon have a staggering assault force of 107,000 troops amassed at Ukraine’s border.”
“Ukrainian military estimates of the advancing force include 1,300 battle tanks, 3,700 drones, 1,300 artillery and mortar units and 380 multiple launch rocket systems,” the report said.
Russia has offered no clear explanation for the buildup of troops, and their presence is leading to fears of an invasion.
The current row between Washington and Moscow began after Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer” in an interview with ABC News last month.
Putin responded by challenging Biden to a live debate — an offer Biden offered no public response to.
The international dustup also comes amid the dismantling of a story, first floated by The New York Times last summer, that Russia was paying bounties to Afghan militants to kill American soldiers. That story created headaches for former President Donald Trump last year as it dominated headlines.
At the time, Trump called the report “fake news,” saying on Twitter, “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”
On Thursday, he seemed to be proved right when U.S. intelligence officials told reporters that they had “low to moderate confidence” in the bounty allegations.
“Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven — and possibly untrue,” The Daily Beast said.
The liberal outlet reported there was no “causative link” between the reported bounties and any deaths of U.S. service members serving in Afghanistan.
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