Kremlin says United States sanctions 'unacceptable'

Ross Houston
April 16, 2021

Russian Federation retaliated on Friday over a new round of USA sanctions imposed a day ago by the Biden administration over the SolarWinds cyberattack and the Kremlin's election meddling.

The sanctions also target Moscow's ability to borrow money by prohibiting USA financial institutions from buying Russian bonds directly from Russian institutions. 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. USA officials believe it was an intelligence-gathering operation aimed at stealing government secrets.

"Today, Canada joins the United States and worldwide partners in voicing our concerns related to a Russian cyber-espionage campaign that exploited the SolarWinds Orion platform", read the statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The statement said "no known Canadian entities have been exploited to date", but investigations are ongoing.

On Thursday, Washington had announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what it says is interference by the Kremlin in USA elections, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.

This year even before the recent alarm over the Ukraine conflict, tensions had ratcheted up sharply after the USA slapped sanctions on Russian Federation over the poisoning of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Tensions are on the rise between Washington and Moscow as U.S. sanctions Russian entities for attempting to influence 2020 election and Russia masses forces on Ukraine's borders and on annexed Crimean peninsula.

Other measures are expected as well, although the administration is not likely to announce them.

Up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers are believed to have received the trojanized Orion update, although the attackers carefully selected their targets, opting to escalate the attacks only in a handful of cases by deploying Teardrop malware based on an initial reconnaissance of the target environment for high-value accounts and assets.

"These actions are meant to hold Russian Federation to account for its reckless actions".

Thursday's sanctions were also tied to what the USA intelligence community believes was Russia's interfere in the 2020 US presidential election, after similar findings after the 2016 race. The White House did not publicly confirm the reports.

Moscow issued a forceful response Friday, announcing that top USA officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Biden's chief Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, and Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Christopher Wray would be banned from entering Russian Federation. In 2019, Russian Federation reportedly offered money to the Taliban in exchange for killing American troops in the country. "If Russia seeks to violate the interests of the United States, we will respond", Biden said. "The package of US sanctions is a manifestation of unfair competition".

Russian officials have expressed outrage that the White House announced the sanctions and expulsions two days after Biden spoke to Putin by phone.

In a television interview last month, Biden replied "I do" when asked if he thought Putin was a "killer".

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Friday said that Putin has long talked about the importance of normalising relations between Moscow and Washington.

Putin later recalled Russia's ambassador to the U.S. He also pointed at the U.S. history with slaves and Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan ending World War II.

It remained unclear whether the USA actions would actually result in changed behavior, especially since past measures by the US have failed to bring an end to Russian hacking. The measures target 32 individuals and groups, accusing them of attempting to interfere in last year's presidential election. And though Trump was often reluctant to criticize Putin, his administration also expelled diplomats in 2018 for Russia's alleged poisoning of an ex-intelligence officer in Britain.

US officials are still grappling with the aftereffects of the SolarWinds intrusion, which affected agencies including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security departments, and are still assessing what information may have been stolen.

The UK government has previously exposed details of other parts of the Russian Federation intelligence service conducting cyber operations.

"Today, President Biden signed a new sanctions executive order that provides strengthened authorities to demonstrate the Administration's resolve in responding to and deterring the full scope of Russia's harmful foreign activities", the document reads.

Other reports by iNewsToday