Biden to hit Russian officials with sanctions as tension rises with Putin

The United States is expected to announce sanctions on Russia for alleged election interference and a massive hacking campaign amidst mounting tensions between the two countries.

The measures, which will target Russian individuals and entities, are expected to be announced on Thursday. They will likely include a blacklist of 30 entities and expulsion of about 10 Russian officials from the US, Reuters cited a person familiar with the matter as saying.

The sanctions would come in response to the SolarWinds breach that was identified in December. The US government has said that the hack, which affected at least 100 private-sector businesses and nine federal agencies, was likely carried out by Russia. The US had last month warned of “seen and unseen” responses to the attack.

The US has also alleged that Russian president Vladimir Putin authorised attempts to swing the 2020 US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump.

US intelligence officials said in a report last month that Mr Putin sought to influence the 2020 election by spreading misleading information about Joe Biden. Russia termed the allegations “baseless.”

The actions come amid an already frosty relationship between the US and Russia. Last month, the US imposed sanctions on seven senior Russian officials and 14 entities over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Mr Biden had warned in an interview with ABC News that the Russian president “will pay a price” for efforts to interfere in the elections. Asked if Mr Putin was a killer, Mr Biden said, “I do.”

Soon after, Russia called its US ambassador back to Moscow but did not give specific reasons for Anatoly Antonov’s return. Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at the time: “The main thing for us is to determine the ways in which the difficult Russian-American relations that Washington has led into a dead end in recent years could be rectified.”

In a call with Mr Putin on Tuesday, Mr Biden proposed a summit meeting “in a third country” in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the US and Russia. He also told the Russian president that the US “will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference,” according to a White House readout of the call.

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