Joe Biden expels diplomats, hits Russia with sanctions over cyberattacks, election interference

The Biden administration imposed its first sanctions on Russia on Thursday to punish Moscow for cyber-espionage against the U.S. and efforts to influence the presidential election.

The move targets dozens of Russian officials and entities, and expels 10 diplomats from the U.S., in addition to other economic measures, in retaliation for the massive SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and election interference.

“The president signed this sweeping new authority to confront Russia’s continued and growing malign behavior,” said Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen. “Treasury is leveraging this new authority to impose costs on the Russian government for its unacceptable conduct, including by limiting Russia’s ability to finance its activities and by targeting Russia’s malicious and disruptive cyber capabilities.”

The actions come immediately after President Biden held a phone call this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control took action against 16 entities and 16 individuals whom it said  attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election “at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government.”

The statement said Russia employed a system of government officials, disinformation outlets, and companies to covertly influence U.S. voters and spread misinformation about U.S. political candidates and U.S. election processes and institutions.

“Treasury will target Russian leaders, officials, intelligence services, and their proxies that attempt to interfere in the U.S. electoral process or subvert U.S. democracy,” Ms. Yellen said. “This is the start of a new U.S. campaign against Russian malign behavior.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions “hold the Russian government to account for the SolarWinds intrusion, reports of bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and attempts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections.”

Treasury is prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from conducting transactions in the primary market for new ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds issued after June 14. The Executive Order also provides authority for the U.S. government to expand sovereign debt sanctions on Russia.

“These actions are intended to hold Russia to account for its reckless actions,” Mr. Blinken said. “We will act firmly in response to Russian actions that cause harm to us or our allies and partners. Where possible, the United States will also seek opportunities for cooperation with Russia, with the goal of building a more stable and predictable relationship consistent with U.S. interests.”

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