The Kremlin said Friday it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats and blacklist eight current and former U.S. officials including FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Susan Rice and John Bolton in response to U.S. sanctions and expulsions, The Washington Post reports
The expected tit-for-tat measures by Russia deepen the strains between the two countries, but Moscow kept its response relatively proportional. The Kremlin also signaled a willingness to consider a summit between President Vladimir Putin and President Biden even as tensions grow.
The Foreign Ministry released the list of people banned from entry into Russia, including Rice, a former ambassador the United Nations and now head of the Domestic Policy Council, and Bolton, who was dismissed as national security adviser by then-President Donald Trump in 2019.
Others include Attorney General Merrick Garland, the director of national intelligence, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Homeland Security chief, after earlier U.S. sanctions on Russian officials in similar posts. Former CIA director R. James Woolsey was also named.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would also stop activities of American organizations and funds that it finds “interfere” in its affairs. But he said Russia would refrain from imposing “painful measures” against U.S. companies, keeping that option in reserve.
Lavrov said presidential aide Yuri Ushakov called on the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, to return to Washington “for consultations there.” The Foreign Ministry said, given the “extremely tense” situation, that both ambassadors should be in their home capitals for consultations.
“This afternoon, I spoke with Ambassador Ushakov and received an outline of Russian government measures. We are awaiting details,” Sullivan said. “I cannot comment further until we have more information.”
Russia recalled its ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, from the United States last month after Biden agreed in a television interview that Putin was “a killer.” No decision has been made on his return.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement Friday evening said it would like to avoid further escalation of tensions with the United States and sought a calm and professional dialogue, but that its wave of sanctions could not go unpunished.
Russian officials have expressed outrage that the White House announced the sanctions and expulsions two days after Biden spoke to Putin by phone. The Kremlin readout of that call emphasized Biden’s call for a summit in a third country and his desire to “normalize” relations, without mentioning that he warned the Russian leader that he planned to take measures over Russia’s actions.
Biden said Thursday that the sanctions were “proportionate” and that he wanted a stable and predictable relationship with Russia, adding that it was “time to de-escalate.”
Commenting on Biden’s proposal for a meeting between the two leaders in a third country, Peskov said it would “take some time to analyze the proposal.” Russian state television anchors portrayed Biden as senile, a favorite state propaganda theme.
“Everyone was expecting a speech like Reagan’s about the Evil Empire, with new attacks on Putin, but instead there was some kind of senile bleating,” said Olga Skabeyeva of Russia’s Channel One television. “He talked about de-escalation in the relations with Russia and immediately threatened new sanctions.”
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