Updates: 15.04.2021 20:55
Released: 15.04.2021, 15:14
WASHINGTON / MOSCOW / BRUSSELS – The United States has taken a series of steps to punish Russia for alleged interference in the US presidential elections last year, cyber attacks on US government agencies, aggressive behavior against Ukraine, and other harmful behavior. They expelled ten Russian diplomats from Washington and imposed a number of economic sanctions on Russia. This move was later supported by NATO, according to which Moscow’s actions threaten the security of Europe and North America. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Russia condemns this development as an escalation of mutual relations, and that Moscow will inevitably respond to the aggressive behavior of the United States.
For the first time, the United States officially stated that the Russian Civil Intelligence Service in SolarWinds was behind the massive cyber attack last year on US government institutions and companies through security holes in the programs. The head of this secret service, Sergei Ivanov, responded with refusal. In a statement released by TASS, he described the allegations as utter slander and nonsense.
United States President Joe Biden signed an executive order authorizing the US government to impose sanctions on any sector of the Russian economy to limit Russia’s ability to issue government bonds. Washington has also made it difficult for US banks to operate in the ruble-denominated bond markets. Today, the Russian ruble is down as much as 2% against the dollar due to new sanctions and has fallen to more than a five-month low against the euro. But later, the Russian currency wiped out some of the losses.
Ten diplomats in Washington were expelled, some of them described as Russian intelligence officials. The United States, in cooperation with the European Union, Britain, Australia and Canada, imposed sanctions on eight individuals it says play a role in the ongoing occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and they are responsible for this. The funnel is there.
According to foreign media, the United States will take more steps towards Russia, which it probably will not announce publicly. US government officials have argued in the past that, in response to Moscow’s cyber campaigns, they want to launch counterattacks that will not be visible to the public, but that Putin and his government will learn about them.
The White House also said Biden was using diplomatic, military and intelligence channels to respond to intelligence that Russia had encouraged the Taliban insurgency to attack US forces in Afghanistan.
Sanctions against Russia were supported in a joint statement by representatives of NATO member states, who also called on Moscow to abandon destabilization activities. These include, for example, election interference, disinformation campaigns, and cyberattacks. At the same time, according to them, Russia should abandon provocations and immediately calm the situation on the borders with Ukraine and in the occupied Crimea.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharov described the Washington talks as aggressive. According to her, the United States is responsible for the deterioration of relations and “the response to sanctions will be inevitable.”
According to Leonid Saluki, head of the Foreign Committee of Russia’s State Duma (House of Representatives), the sanctions are reducing the constructive tone of Biden’s conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week. In it, Biden proposed to his counterpart a summit in a third country in the coming months. The White House confirmed today that this offer remains valid.
According to the Associated Press, it is not clear whether the new US steps and sanctions will force Moscow to change its positions, especially since similar attempts by previous administrations in this regard have failed. The Democratic government of Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. Although Republican Donald Trump has been reluctant to criticize Putin, in 2018 his government also expelled Russian diplomats for Moscow’s alleged role in poisoning Russia’s secret agent Sergei Skripal in Britain .