U.S. to Sanction Russia, Expel Diplomats Over Alleged Election Interference, Hacking
By Michael R. Gordon, Dustin Volz and Vivian Salama
WASHINGTON--The Biden administration will impose a range of
retaliatory measures against Russia on Thursday in response to
Moscow's alleged election interference, a widespread hacking
campaign and other malign activity, according to people familiar
with the matter.
Using a new executive order, the measure will expand the
existing prohibitions on U.S. banks trading in Russian government
debt, two of the people said. Previous prohibitions targeting
portions of Russian sovereign debt shook Russia's markets and added
to its economic woes.
That order prohibits U.S. financial institutions from buying new
bonds directly from Russia's central bank, finance ministry and the
country's massive sovereign-wealth fund after June 14.
Among other measures, 10 Russian diplomats will be expelled,
including some due to allegations that Russia offered to pay
bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. military service
members, the people said. Sanctions will be imposed for Russia's
cyber intrusions, election meddling and occupation of Crimea.
Russia's foreign-intelligence service, the SVR, will be formally
accused of carrying out the so-called SolarWinds hack of U.S.
government and corporate computer systems. Collectively, the
actions are meant to punish Moscow while also deterring the Kremlin
from further provocations.
The penalties follow escalating tensions between Western allies
and Russia as Moscow masses troops on its border with Ukraine in
numbers not seen since just before its invasion of Crimea in 2014.
Russia has also failed to heed warnings against election
interference and other malicious activities, the people said.
President Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on
Tuesday to register U.S. complaints about Moscow's cyber intrusion,
election intervention, and activities in Ukraine. The White House
said Mr. Biden extended a personal invitation to his Russian
counterpart to meet in the coming months, to address some of the
issues face to face.
Russia has yet to accept the summit invitation and is likely to
respond to the U.S. actions with some of their own.
Thursday's actions will also designate a half dozen Russian
companies as working to support Russia's cyber operations, and
designate more than 30 individuals and entities for interfering in
U.S. elections, people familiar with the measures said.
The U.S., in tandem with the U.K., Australia, Canada and the
European Union, will also sanction eight individuals and entities
associated with the occupation of Crimea, one added.
The risk of the Biden administration targeting Russian bonds
rattled the country's sovereign debt markets in recent weeks. One
mitigating factor, however, is that U.S. institutions would still
be able to trade in the secondary bond markets, preserving some of
the foreign investment critical to the Russian economy.
The SolarWinds attack, for which the anticipated action will
hold the SVR responsible, was discovered in December. Officials
have said it compromised at least nine federal agencies and about
100 private sector organizations. It is widely considered one of
the worst U.S. counterintelligence failures.
The outgoing Trump administration had said generally that Russia
was likely responsible for the SolarWinds hack. Russia has denied
Though widely viewed as a traditional espionage campaign, that
hack has been described by senior U.S. officials as beyond the
boundaries of acceptable cyber operations because of its scope and
scale. Mr. Biden vowed an aggressive response during the
presidential transition, and has said cybersecurity is a top
national-security priority of his administration.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in an
unclassified report released last month that Mr. Putin authorized a
range of intelligence operations intended to hurt Joe Biden's 2020
presidential campaign and support former President Donald Trump's
re-election. Russian officials have repeatedly denied interfering
in U.S. elections.
Russia has up to 68,000 troops near Ukraine, as well as Iskander
surface-to-surface missiles and other heavy weapons, U.S. officials
say. The Biden administration is in the process of preparing
options to provide nonlethal and lethal aid to Ukraine--and
additional economic sanctions--should Russian troops attack
Ian Talley contributed to this article.
Write to Michael R. Gordon at email@example.com, Dustin
Volz at firstname.lastname@example.org and Vivian Salama at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 15, 2021 00:44 ET (04:44 GMT)
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