US Sanctions Russia and Expels 10 Diplomats Over SolarWinds Cyberattack

US President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's Russia

"The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia", Biden said.

The sanctions come on the back of an already tense period for US-Russia relations.

Russian Federation and Americans are both proud and patriotic people.

Juliet Kayyem, a former USA national security official, said the new sanctions were "significant and different", as they would affect wealthy Russians.

His comments follow the USA announcement Thursday it would expel 10 Russian diplomats as well place sanctions on 32 Russia-related individuals and companies accused of interfering in the 2020 presidential election, spreading disinformation and other harmful actions.

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

Reports of alleged "bounties" surfaced previous year, with the Trump administration coming under fire for not raising the issue directly with Russian Federation.

"Judging from history, removing USA investors as buyers in this market will likely cause a chilling effect that raises Russia's borrowing cost, along with capital fight and a weaker currency - all of which leads to slower growth and higher inflation", said this official. United States intelligence agencies have "low-to-moderate" confidence in their assessment of those reports, in part because they rely on sometimes undependable testimony from detainees, it said.

Among the individual companies sanctioned were websites that US officials say operate as fronts for Russian intelligence agencies and spread disinformation, including articles alleging widespread voter fraud in 2020. This enabled Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, to spy on and disrupt the systems of thousands of organisations on a global scale, although it was mainly government bodies that were targeted.

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"To bolster its malicious cyber operations, the FSB cultivates and co-opts criminal hackers, including the previously designated Evil Corp, enabling them to engage in disruptive ransomware attacks and phishing campaigns", the Treasury Department said.

Russian Federation summoned the U.S. Ambassador for what Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said would be a "difficult conversation" after the announcement.

Those hit by this round of sanctions include individuals and entities blamed by the USA for enabling the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked troll farm that used a coordinated operation on social media in an effort to help Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016. It is my responsibility as President of the United States to do so. She said the ministry had called in the US ambassador for a "hard conversation", but would not immediately say what action Russian Federation would take.

President Biden informed Putin that the sanctions were coming earlier this week. Biden administration officials have made clear in their contacts with the Russian Federation side that they are hoping to avoid a "downward spiral" in the relationship, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity following the sanctions announcement.

US President Joe Biden spoke on Tuesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to raise concerns about those issues and the buildup of Russian forces in Crimea and along the border with Ukraine, although a top US general saw only a "low-to-medium" risk of a Russian invasion in the next few weeks.

In a television interview last month, Biden said "I do" when asked if he thought Putin was a "killer".

"I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so", and "chose to be proportionate", Biden said. Putin later recalled his ambassador to the USA and pointed at the United States history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II. The Obama administration expelled diplomats in 2016 in response to interference in that year's presidential election.

It remained unclear whether the USA actions would actually result in changed behaviour, especially since past measures by the US have failed to bring an end to Russian hacking.

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 government's own cyber defences.

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