President Joe Biden (L) and President Vladimir Putin.
The Biden government imposed a series of new sanctions against Moscow on Thursday for alleged election disruptions and cyber attacks.
“Today the US Treasury Department (OFAC) took extensive action against 16 companies and 16 people who, on the instructions of the leadership of the Russian government, tried to influence the US presidential election in 2020,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.
In addition to the Treasury Department’s extensive sanctions, the State Department announced that it would expel ten officials from Russia’s diplomatic mission in the United States.
The sanctions come after President Joe Biden’s phone call this week with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and as a Russian force near the Ukrainian border.
Washington officially accused Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of being behind the SolarWinds cyberattack, published late last year, which cybersecurity experts have described as one of the largest and most sophisticated hacking operations in history.
“The US intelligence community has great confidence in their assessment of the attribution,” the Treasury Department press release said. The hack gave hackers access to the software, which was used by thousands of government agencies and companies.
The penalties are also in response to a March report by the US director of intelligence that found that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin approved attempts to meddle in the 2020 election on behalf of former President Donald Trump.
The dollar was up 1.69% against the ruble at 3 p.m. local time, while the Russian currency traded against the greenback at 77.0718 a.m. Wednesday’s closing price against the dollar was 75.7928.
Tuesday’s Biden-Putin call, at least the second between the two men since Biden took office in January, comes as the United States and other western countries tire of Russia’s growing military build-up on the border with Ukraine, where there are dozens has amassed thousands of troops and tanks.
“We are now seeing the largest concentration of Russian armed forces on the borders of Ukraine since 2014,” said Foreign Minister Antony Blinken on Tuesday after visiting the NATO headquarters in Brussels. “This is a deep concern not only for Ukraine, but also for the US.”
Regional experts say this move could be an attempt to test Biden’s skills and intimidate Ukraine. The more pessimistic outlook suggests that the goal is to incite Ukraine into renewed conflict.
In a telephone conversation with Putin, Biden emphasized “the unwavering commitment of the United States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to a reading by the White House.
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