US President Joe Biden signed a decree on Thursday imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia. They target more than 30 individuals and organizations. The White House also moved to expel nearly a dozen of Moscow’s diplomats
The move, which the White House says is in response to alleged interference by Moscow in the 2020 US presidential election, will see American companies banned from directly buying shares in Russia’s national debt. The Kremlin has consistently denied that it made any attempt to meddle in the contest, in which Biden defeated former President Donald Trump. Sanctions have also been linked to the colossal SolarWinds cyber-espionage case, which Washington claims Russia was behind.
Earlier this month, the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin warned that the US may resort to attacking bonds as part of “a deliberate calculation to create a toxic atmosphere around Russian securities in order to reduce their investment potential.” He added that Moscow was already working to create a battle plan to limit the effect such sanctions would have on the economy.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan defended the move later on Thursday, saying that the package of sanctions comprised “proportionate measures to defend American interests in response to harmful Russia actions including cyber intrusions and election interference.”
At the same time, ten of Moscow’s diplomatic representatives in the US have been declared persona non grata and ordered to leave the country. Back in Moscow, before the decision was announced, Alexey Chepa, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, warned that such a move would lead to a tit-for-tat expulsion from Moscow. “If Russian envoys are expelled,” the MP said, “naturally there will have to be a mirror-image response.”
The announcement came just hours after the Kremlin said that talk of sanctions would hinder the prospects of better bilateral relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to participate in a bilateral summit by Biden “in the coming weeks,” but his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, indicated that it won’t be happening “in the near future.”
“The fact that the sanctions are probably being discussed will in no way help the likelihood of such a meeting taking place – that can be stated unambiguously,” he added.
In March, Washington announced it had imposed sanctions on a number of Russian officials that it claimed were behind the jailing of Western-backed opposition figure Alexey Navalny, as well as for alleged “human rights” abuses during the policing of subsequent protests. A small number of companies and one research institution that US officials intimated were involved in a shadowy chemical weapons program were also targeted.