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US expels Russian diplomats, imposes sanctions for hacking

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US expels Russian diplomats, imposes sanctions for hacking

The Biden administration on Thursday announced the United States is expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against dozens of companies and people, holding the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election and the cyber hacking of federal agencies.

The sweeping measures are meant to punish Russia for actions that U.S. officials say cut to the core of American democracy and to deter future acts by imposing economic costs on Moscow, including by targeting its ability to borrow money.

Foreshadowed for weeks by administration officials, the actions are certain to exacerbate tensions with Moscow, which promised retaliation

Sanctions against six Russian companies that support the country’s cyber efforts represent the first retaliatory measures against the Kremlin for the hack familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach.

The U.S. on Thursday also explicitly linked the hack to a Russian intelligence agency called the SVR.

Though such intelligence-gathering operations are not uncommon, officials said they were determined to act because of the operation’s broad scope and the high cost of the intrusion on private companies.

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The U.S. also announced sanctions on 32 individuals and entities accused of attempting to interfere in last year’s presidential election, including by spreading disinformation.

U.S. intelligence officials alleged in a declassified report last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to help Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid for reelection as president, though there’s no evidence Russia or anyone else changed votes or manipulated the outcome.

The actions signal a harder line against Putin, whom Trump was reluctant to criticize even as his administration pursued sanctions against Moscow.

They are the administration’s second major foreign policy move in two days, following the announcement of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. Until now, President Joe Biden has focused on the coronavirus pandemic and economy in his first months in office.

The 10 diplomats being expelled include representatives of Russian intelligence services, the Biden administration said. They were selected on the basis “that they were acting in a manner inconsistent with their status in the United States,” a senior official said.

Other measures are expected as well, though the administration is not likely to announce them. Officials have been advising that their response to Russia would be in ways both seen and unseen.

[Associated Press]

Vanguard News Nigeria

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