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Joe Biden announces sanctions on Russia as Ukraine fears grow

Russia: Expert discusses tensions with Ukraine

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Ten diplomats, including alleged spies, are also being expelled. The US moves came as it blamed President Vladimir Putin’s regime for undermining American elections last November and for the SolarWinds hack last year. It also came as President Biden cancelled the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea despite Ukraine saying Moscow was threatening its destruction.

Washington is also ramping up pressure over claims Russia is offering the Taliban bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Mr Biden said: “I have determined specifiedharmful foreign activities of the government of the Russian Federation … constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to national security.”

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

Microsoft president Brad Smith said in February the SolarWinds hack was “the largest and most sophisticated” ever.

Widely used software was infected with malicious code giving access to official digital files, including those in the US Treasury, Justice and State departments. Hackers were said to be from Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the SVR.

President Biden’s U-turn on sending warships to the Black Sea came after the Kremlin warned them to “stay away for their own good”.

He said: “We have no desire to be in an escalating war with Russia. We do not seek a downward spiral. We can and think we can avoid that.”

But officials said the administration “will not accept its destabilising behaviour that harms the United States, its allies and its partners”.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: “The UK will continue to work with allies to call out Russia’s malign behaviour where we see it.”

Ukraine yesterday warned Moscow that any escalation of fighting would be met with a firm military response.

Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said rhetoric in Moscow had reached a fever pitch with pundits and officials issuing “dehumanising” statements aimed at intimidating Kiev.

He said: “They are openly threatening Ukraine with war and the destruction of Ukrainian statehood.

“The red line of Ukraine is the state border. If Russia crosses the red line, then it will have to suffer.

“We are not afraid.”

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