US imposes sanctions on Russia

Image: AP

The US has imposed sanctions against Russia in response to what it says are cyber-attacks and other hostile acts.

The US government has blacklisted Russian companies, expelled Russian diplomats and barred US banks from buying sovereign bonds from Russia's central bank, national wealth fund and Finance Ministry.

The statement says Russian intelligence was behind last year's massive "SolarWinds" hack, and accuses Moscow of interference in the 2020 election.

Russia denies all the allegations and says it will respond in kind.

The sanctions announced on Thursday are detailed in an executive order signed by President Joe Biden. They come at a tense time for relations between the two countries.

Last month the US targeted seven Russian officials and more than a dozen government entities over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Russia says it was not involved.

US President Joe Biden to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to raise concerns about those issues and the build up of Russian forces in Crimea and along the border with Ukraine, although a top US general said that there is only a “low-to-medium” risk of a Russian invasion in the next few weeks.

Biden, who also proposed a US-Russian summit, is trying to strike a balance between deterring what Washington sees as hostile Russian behaviour, while avoiding a failing relations between the two countries.

On Thursday, Mr Biden described his decision to impose sanctions on Russia as "proportionate".

"I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so," Mr Biden told reporters. "The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia."

He added that the way forwards is through "thoughtful dialogue and diplomatic process".

The Biden administration is planning to sign a new executive order to strengthen its cybersecurity, a US official told reporters, suggesting it could include such elements as encryption and multifactor authentication.

The White House also said it would respond to reports Russia had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.

US intelligence agencies have "low-to-moderate" confidence in their assessment of those reports, in part because they rely on sometimes undependable testimony from detainees, it said.

The latest sanctions target 32 entities and officials accused of trying to influence the 2020 US presidential election "and other acts of disinformation".

Ten diplomats are being expelled. The executive order also bars US financial institutions from purchasing rouble-denominated bonds from June.