Russia opposes US sanctions by expelling diplomats

Russia to expel 10 US diplomats and restrict the work of those who remain in Moscow in a tit-for-tat response to sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden on Thursday who halted ahead of a dramatic escalation in measures.

Moscow will ban Russians and other non-Americans from working in US missions in the country and stop a program that allows US State Department employees to make unlimited visits to Russia, as well as add eight government officials America to its own sanctions list.

The US State Department later said, “Our recent actions were proportionate and appropriate to Russia’s nefarious activities. Today’s announcement by the Russian government was escalating and regrettable. It is not in our best interests to enter an escalation cycle, but we reserve the right to respond to any Russian retaliation against the United States. “

Sign that Biden’s two-handed approach – imposing new sanctions on Russia for alleged past actions while offers to “normalize” relationships – can succeed, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow had “positive reactions” to the proposal of hold a common summit between Biden and President Vladimir Putin.

The United States on Thursday announced new sanctions against Russia for what it called Moscow interference in the US election and cyber attacks, including a ban on US banks buying new Russian state debt, sanctions against 38 people and entities, and the expulsion of 10 diplomats.

“We will respond to this measure with a mirror image,” Lavrov said of the diplomatic expulsions, but added that Moscow would leave the debt restrictions unanswered for the time being.

“For obvious reasons, we do not have comparable influence over the United States. [financial] scale, ”he said. “We also have the opportunity to take painful measures for American companies, [but] we will keep them in reserve.

Lavrov also said Moscow would stop the work of American non-governmental and charitable organizations that “interfere in Russian political life” and called on US Ambassador to the Kremlin John Sullivan to follow his counterpart’s lead and go home for consultations. .

The response is less belligerent than some analysts had predicted, and echoed comments by Putin’s spokesman earlier Friday, who said the Kremlin was open to Biden’s offer to ease tensions between the two. country despite the new sanctions.

“[Putin] has repeatedly stated that we are ready to develop dialogue as much as our counterparts are ready to do, ”Dmitry Peskov told reporters before the announcement of the countermeasures. “In that sense, it’s probably positive that both heads of state agree.”

The White House said on Thursday that the first round of anti-Russian measures under the new administration was “to impose costs on actions by the Russian government that seek to harm us,” adding: “We don’t think we need to continue on. a negative trajectory. . “

Two days before the sanctions announcement, Biden used a phone call with Putin to suggest the two meet for negotiations in a third country in the near future.

Investors said US sanctions affecting Russian state debt would have little impact on Moscow’s ability to raise funds and on the attractiveness of its bonds because they allowed US banks to buy debt in the secondary market.

Moscow’s measures will drastically reduce the number of U.S. employees at its embassy and two consulates general, and limit the ability of U.S. diplomats to travel around the country.

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