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Russia to expel 10 U.S. diplomats in response to Washington sanctions

Moscow would not take “painful measures” against the American business in Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Russian Geographical Society via video link in Moscow on April 14, 2021.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. Alexei Druzhinin / Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow will order 10 U.S. diplomats to leave Russia in a retaliatory response to the U.S. sanctions.

Lavrov also said that 8 U.S. officials will be added to its sanctions list and move to restrict and stop the activities of American nongovernment organizations from interfering in Russia’s politics.

While Russia has a possibility to take “painful measures” against the American business in Russia, it wouldn’t immediately move to do that, he added.

Russia's Foreign Ministry later said in a statement that FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, were among those banned from entering the country.

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Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Michael Carvajal, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice, John Bolton, the former U.S. National Security Advisor, and ex-CIA head Robert James Woolsey, were also barred.

The moves follow a barrage of new sanctions on Russia announced this week by the Biden administration. The U.S. on Thursday ordered 10 Russian diplomats expelled, targeted dozens of companies and people, and imposed new curbs on Russia's ability to borrow money.

Russia has denied interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of federal agencies — the activities punished by the latest U.S. sanctions.

President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, invited U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan on Friday to tell him about the Russian response.

Russia's economic potential and its global reach are limited compared with the Soviet Union that competed with the U.S for international influence during the Cold War. Still, Russia's nuclear arsenal and its leverage in many parts of the world make it a power that Washington needs to reckon with.

Aware of that, President Joe Biden called for de-escalating tensions and held the door open for cooperation with Russia in certain areas. Biden said he told Putin in Tuesday's call that he chose not to impose tougher sanctions for now and proposed to meet in a third country in the summer.

Ramping up sanctions could eventually drive Russia into a corner and provoke even more reckless Kremlin action, such as a potential escalation in Ukraine, which has recently faced a surge in clashes with Russia-backed separatists in the east and a massive Russian troops buildup across the border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Paris on Friday to discuss the tensions with French President Emmanuel Macron. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was to join them in a call later.