Sanctions Escalate US–Russia Tensions

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Relations between the United States and Russia have soured following the imposition of new sanctions by the Biden administration on America's former Cold War enemy.

The measures were introduced today in retaliation for cyber-attacks and election interference that the United States says were carried out by Russia. President Joe Biden announced the sanctions earlier today in one of the more than 50 executive orders he has signed during his first four months in power. 

In the order, Biden said that "specified harmful foreign activities" of the Russian government "constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States."

Among the harmful activities listed in the order were "efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners" and engaging in and facilitating "malicious cyber-enabled activities against the United States and its allies and partners."

The United States says Moscow interfered in the 2020 presidential election and that Russian intelligence officials were behind last year's Microsoft hack in which attackers exploited SolarWinds' Orion business software to gain access to nine federal agencies and around 100 American companies.

Sources quoted by Bloomberg say that 32 individuals and entities and six Russian companies that support the Russian government's hacking operation will be sanctioned. US financial institutions will be barred from participating in certain transactions with the Russian central bank from June 14. 

In addition to the sanctions, the White House said that it will expel 10 Russian diplomats who are currently residing in Washington, DC, including "representatives of Russian intelligence services." 

Responding to the imposition of the sanctions, Russian government official Dmitry Polyanskiy posted the following message on social media: "Well, actions speak stronger than words! If that’s true and US continues to promote its baseless accusations, it will get adequate response and deprive the world of maybe the last opportunity to avoid Great Powers’ confrontation instead of solving acute problems. Not our choice!" 

Biden’s actions echo the decision by the Obama administration in 2016 to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the US and impose sanctions on Russia in retaliation for election hacking.  

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