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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

US imposes sanctions on Moscow, expels 10 Russian diplomats

Eight were also sanctioned over Russia's occupation of Crimea [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2021

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More than 30 people have been sanctioned over allegations of electoral interference.

The United States announced sanctions against Russia on Thursday and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.

President Joe Biden ordered a widening of restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 individuals alleged to have tried to meddle in the 2020 presidential election, the White House said.

Biden's executive order "sends a signal that the United States will impose costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russia if it continues or escalates its destabilising international action", the White House said in a statement.

The US barrage came the same week as Biden offered to meet President Vladimir Putin for their first face-to-face talks, suggesting that the summit could take place in a third country.

The Kremlin gave an initially positive response to the idea but said Thursday that sanctions would not "help".

After the White House unveiled its measures, the Russian foreign ministry said a response was "inevitable".

"The United States is not ready to come to terms with the objective reality that there is a multipolar world that excludes American hegemony," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The latest tension comes against a backdrop of longterm anger in Washington at Russian election meddling and worries both in the United States and its European allies over Russia's recent troop build up on the border of Ukraine.

The imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, who is effectively the last open political opponent to Putin, has further spiked concerns in the West.

NATO backs up US

The White House statement listed in first place Moscow's "efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners".

This referred to allegations that Russian intelligence agencies mounted persistent disinformation and dirty tricks campaigns during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, in part to help Donald Trump's candidacy.

The White House said the sanctions likewise respond to "malicious cyber activities against the United States and its allies and partners," referring to the massive so-called SolarWinds hack of US government computer systems last year.

The statement also called out Russia's extraterritorial "targeting" of dissidents and journalists and undermining of security in countries important to US national security.

In addition, the Department of Treasury, together with the European Union, Australia, Britain and Canada, sanctioned eight individuals and entities associated with Russia's occupation of Crimea in Ukraine.

In Brussels, the NATO military alliance said US allies "support and stand in solidarity with the United States, following its 15 April announcement of actions to respond to Russia's destabilising activities".

NATO members cited a "sustained pattern" of Russian hostility.

"We call on Russia to cease immediately its destabilising behavior, and to uphold its international obligations," they said.

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