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 involvement.

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 Ukraine.

Ian Talley contributed to this article.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at, Dustin Volz at and Vivian Salama at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 15, 2021 00:44 ET (04:44 GMT)

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