United States expels Russian diplomats in response to SolarWinds hack

US President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's Russia

US President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's Russia

The United States on Thursday announced a sweeping series of sanctions against Russian Federation over election interference, cyber hacking, and other "harmful foreign activities", it said, including reports of Russian Federation offering "bounties" for Taliban attacks against USA troops, and Russia's occupation and alleged human rights abuses in Crimea.

The Treasury Department sanctioned 32 organizations and individuals for their alleged influence operations aimed at the USA election.

As part of the sanctions, the Biden administration accused Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service of being behind the massive SolarWinds hack, in which hackers exploited software from the IT group SolarWinds to compromise data from thousands of customers and several federal agencies.

After the White House unveiled its measures, the Russian foreign ministry said a response was "inevitable".

For its part, the United Kingdom government's National Cyber Security Centre said Thursday that it was "highly likely" that the SVR was behind the SolarWinds breaches.

In an executive order, Biden widened restrictions on United States banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 individuals accused of meddling in the 2020 presidential election.

"The Biden administration has been clear that the United States desires a relationship with Russian Federation that is stable and predictable", the Biden administration announced.

Biden's executive order "sends a signal that the United States will impose costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russian Federation if it continues or escalates its destabilizing global action", the White House said in a statement.

Britain on Thursday said it had summoned the Russian ambassador in the United Kingdom to express its deep concern at what it called Moscow's "pattern of malign activity".

Zakharova also said that a Russian response to the sanctions was "unavoidable".

In that intrusion, Russian hackers are believed to have infected widely used software with malicious code that enabled them to access the networks of at least nine agencies, part of what USA officials believe was an operation aimed at mining the secrets of the American government.

"When he spoke to him this week", Sullivan told reporters, "he said, 'I told you that I was going to look into this, I made a determination that Russian Federation has, in fact, conducted these actions, and I'm a man of my word, I am ready to respond, but I'm not looking to escalate".

While some private-sector analysts have wondered how the alleged SVR operation differs from traditional cyber-espionage, the White House made the case Thursday that the scope of the hacking is a "national security and public safety concern" and that "it places an undue burden on the mostly private sector victims who must bear the unusually high cost of mitigating this incident".

The series of US statements on Russian cyber-operations had other revelations: The Treasury Department formally linked Russia's FSB intelligence agency with a ransomware gang known as EvilCorp.

In addition, the Biden administration is also expelling ten members of Russia's diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., including representatives of its intelligence services. The White House announced that summit proposal earlier this week.

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