Fri, 07 May 2021

Russia has declared 10 employees at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to be personae non gratae in what it called a 'mirror' response to Washington's expulsion earlier this month of 10 Russian diplomats and wide-ranging sanctions as it moved to hold the Kremlin accountable for actions against the United States and its interests.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on April 21 that the deputy head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation, Bart Gorman was handed a note announcing the measure, which gives the 10 embassy employees until the end of the day on May 21 to leave the country.

'This measure is a 'mirror' response to the hostile actions of the American side against a number of employees of the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate General in New York, who were unreasonably declared 'persona non grata,'' it said in a statement.

Tensions between the West and Russia have been nearing the boiling point in recent weeks over a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine, cyberattacks, Prague's claims that Russian military agents were behind a deadly 2014 explosion at a Czech arms depot, and the imprisonment of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny after he was poisoned with a nerve-agent last year.

On April 15, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order outlining the expulsions and and sanctions against dozens of other Russian individuals and entities as it moved to hold the Kremlin accountable for actions hostile to the United States and its interests. In addition, the U.S. Treasury also placed additional limits on the Russian sovereign debt market.

Biden said the United States "could have gone further" in its retaliation, but chose not to because it was not looking to "kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict" through the wide-ranging sanctions.

At the time, Moscow swiftly swiftly denounced and warned of retaliation.

SEE ALSO: Amid Heightened Tensions With West, Putin Uses Address To Warn Against Foreign 'Provocations'

In its April 21 statement, Russia said 'further steps will follow...the latest 'wave' of illegal US anti-Russian sanctions.'

U.S. intelligence officials and technology companies have said the Solarwinds cyberattack, discovered in December, was likely the work of Russian hackers.

In the attack, hackers slipped malicious code into updates of network-management software made by the U.S. company SolarWinds, which was then downloaded by several branches of the U.S. government and several U.S. and European corporations.

The U.S. sanctions were also aimed at retaliating for alleged interference during the 2020 presidential election. A U.S. intelligence community assessment concluded with a high degree of confidence that President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government authorized and directed an effort to influence the election.

Moscow has denied any involvement in either affair.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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