Russia on Friday banned top officials from US President Joe Biden’s administration from entering the country as it announced a wave of tit-for-tat sanctions and expulsions of diplomats, as tensions soar between the rivals.
Moscow nonetheless said it viewed the prospect of a summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin “positively.”
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 US elections, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.
Moscow issued a forceful response Friday, announcing that 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.
Earlier Friday Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Russia was responding to US sanctions in “a tit-for-tat manner” by asking ten US diplomats in Russia to leave the country while also expelling five Polish diplomats in response to a 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.”
But Russia’s foreign ministry insisted that it viewed Biden’s proposal to hold a summit with Putin “positively”, adding that it was “currently under consideration”.
Biden’s offer earlier this week of a summit had amounted to a peace offering, as tensions between Russia and the West have escalated over the conflict in Ukraine and the new penalties levied by Washington.
The US penalties widened restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt and sanctioned 32 individuals accused of meddling in the 2020 US presidential vote.
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