The Borneo Post (Sabah)

oussia bans top Biden officials as tensions soar

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MOSCOW: Russia on Friday banned top officials from US President Joe Biden’s administra­tion from entering the country and announced a wave of tit-for-tat sanctions and expulsions of diplomats, as tensions soar between the rivals.

The Russian action comes a day after Washington announced sanctions against Moscow and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats, in retaliatio­n for what it says was interferen­ce by the Kremlin in US elections, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.

Moscow in a forceful response said top US officials including Attorney-General Merrick Garland, Biden’s chief domestic policy advisor Susan Rice, and FBI chief Christophe­r Wray would be banned from entering Russia.

Lists of officials banned from entry are usually kept secret, but Russia’s foreign ministry said it was revealing the names due to the “unpreceden­ted nature” of the current tensions with Washington.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Russia was responding to US sanctions in “a tit-for-tat manner” by asking 10 US diplomats in Russia to leave the country while also expelling five Polish diplomats in response to a

We have not received any official diplomatic correspond­ence providing details of the Russian government actions against the diplomatic mission of the United States of America in Russia.

— John Sullivan, US envoy

similar move by Warsaw.

Lavrov also said that Putin’s top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, had recommende­d that US envoy John Sullivan leave for Washington to conduct “serious consultati­ons”.

Sullivan said he had only seen a message on the Russian foreign ministry’s website and was consulting with Washington.

“We have not received any official diplomatic correspond­ence providing details of the Russian government actions against the diplomatic mission of the United States of America in Russia,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The State Department later called Russia’s retaliatio­n “escalatory and regrettabl­e”.

“It is not in our interest to get into an escalatory cycle, but we reserve the right to respond to any Russian retaliatio­n against the US,” a spokespers­on said in Washington.

Despite the barrage of expulsions and sanctions, Russia’s foreign ministry insisted that it viewed Biden’s recent proposal to hold a summit with Putin “positively”, adding that it was “currently under considerat­ion”.

Biden’s suggestion earlier this week had amounted to a peace offering at a time when tensions between Russia and the West have escalated over the conflict in Ukraine.

The US penalties announced Thursday widened restrictio­ns on US banks trading in Russian government debt and sanctioned 32 individual­s accused of meddling in the 2020 US presidenti­al vote.

Biden had described the new US sanctions as a “measured and proportion­ate” response to Moscow’s hostile actions.

Ties then hit rock bottom last month after Biden, who promised to take a firmer line on Moscow than his predecesso­r Donald Trump, agreed with a descriptio­n of Putin as a “killer”.

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