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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”. The measures blacklisted Russian companies, expelled Russian diplomats and placed limits on the Russian sovereign debt market in steps which immediately triggered an angry reaction from Moscow.

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.

US President JoeBiden has issued an executive order authorising the US government to sanction any sector of the Russian economy and used it to restrict Russia’s ability to issue sovereign debt to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2020 US election.

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

US banks have been barred from taking part in the primary market for non-rouble sovereign bonds since 2019.

The US Treasury also blacklisted 32 entities and individuals which it said had carried out Russian government-directed attempts to influence the 2020 US presidential election and other “acts of disinformation and interference”.

In concert with the European Union, Britain, Australia and Canada, the Treasury also sanctioned eight individuals associated with Russia’s ongoing occupation and repression in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

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.

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“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.

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.

Russia has also summoned the US Ambassador in Moscow to discuss the situation.

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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