USA expels Russian diplomats, imposes dozens of new sanctions

Russian Federation denies meddling in US elections, orchestrating a cyber hack that used USA tech company SolarWinds Corp to penetrate US government networks, and using a nerve agent to poison Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The latest step is part of a wider array of sanctions the White House plans to announce on Thursday to make Russian Federation pay a price for "malign" actions such as election interference, cyber-hacking, the use of chemical weapons and reports that it offered Taliban militants bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Among the sanctions to be unveiled are the blacklisting of about 30 entities as well as orders expelling about 10 Russian officials from the United States, one person familiar with the matter 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", said one official, echoing the administration's desire for a "stable and predictable relationship" with Russia.

He set out the United Kingdom assessment that the Russian Intelligence Services were behind the SolarWinds compromise.

Other measures are expected as well, although the administration is not likely to announce them.

Biden believes he and Russian President Vladimir Putin should hold a summit "to discuss all of the issues facing our relationship", Sullivan said. The U.S.is expelling 10 personnel from the Russian diplomatic mission to be expelled from the country.

Biden speaks with Putin, suggests summit
Russian Federation in recent weeks has stepped up troop movements near its border with Ukraine. Biden said in a March interview that he agreed Putin is a "killer".

US officials are weighing whether to take additional action under an executive order to protect the IT supply chain "from further exploitation by Russian Federation", the White House said. The White House did not publicly confirm the reports.

The sanctions send a clear retributive message to Russian Federation and are aimed at serving as a deterrent. "The SolarWinds incident ... has had all the trappings of traditional espionage that, while unfortunate, has not historically been outside the bounds of responsible state behavior", Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., said while calling on the Biden administration to "fully explain the contours of [its] new policy that seems to focus on Russia's reckless history of attacks like NotPetya and the enormous cleanup costs associated with SolarWinds". But they are certain to exacerbate an already tense relationship between the USA and Russian Federation.

Biden, in a phone call on Tuesday, proposed a summit with Putin to tackle a raft of disputes and told Moscow to reduce tensions over Ukraine triggered by a Russian military build-up.

In a television interview last month, Biden replied "I do" when asked if he thought Putin was a "killer". He said the days of the U.S. "rolling over" to Putin were done. And though Trump was often reluctant to criticize Putin, his administration also expelled diplomats in 2018 for Russia's alleged poisoning of an ex-intelligence officer in Britain.

U.S. officials are still grappling with the after effects of the SolarWinds intrusion which affected agencies including the Treasury Justice Energy and Homeland Security departments and are still assessing what information may have been stolen. The breach exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain as well as weaknesses in the federal governments own cyber defenses.

The Kremlin said on Thursday it would respond in kind to any new "illegal" new U.S. sanctions on Russian Federation and warned any new measures would reduce the chances of a summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin taking place. Last month, the USA sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a almost fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.

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