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U.S. to Impose Russia Sanctions Over Election, SolarWinds

The Biden administration is poised to take action against Russian individuals and entities in retaliation for alleged misconduct including the SolarWinds hack and efforts to disrupt the U.S. election, according to people familiar with the matter.

As part of the moves, which could be announced as soon as Thursday, the U.S. plans to sanction about a dozen individuals, including government and intelligence officials, and roughly 20 entities, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter was sensitive.

 

Other measures planned by the Biden administration would seek to bar U.S. financial institutions from trading new debt issued by the Russian central bank, Finance Ministry and sovereign wealth fund, according to one of the people. The precise timing of the debt measure isn’t clear, the person said.

The U.S. is also expected to expel as many as 10 Russian officials and diplomats from the country, two of the people said.

The sanctions would come days after President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. would defend its interests. Tensions are also running high over Russia’s buildup of forces near Ukraine’s borders, prompting NATO on Tuesday to join the U.S. and the European Union in calling for Putin to de-escalate.At the same time, Biden floated in his call with Putin on Tuesday the idea of a summit between the two leaders to discuss issues confronting Moscow and Washington. The prospect of a meeting spurred the ruble to rally the most in three months against the dollar as investors bet that a summit could de-escalate tensions and mitigate the risk of new sanctions. Those gains were erased Thursday, as the Russian currency slumped as much as 2.1%.

Spokespeople for the White House, the National Security Council and Treasury Department had no immediate comment. The State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A U.S. intelligence community assessment has concluded with a high degree of confidence that Putin and the Russian government authorized and directed an effort to influence the 2020 election. Some of the planned measures are aimed at outlets controlled by Russian intelligence services and blamed for sowing disinformation during the 2020 campaign, according to one of the people. Others to be targeted include individuals and entities that operate outside Russia at the behest of Moscow.

The sanctions would follow a review ordered by Biden on his first full day in office into four key areas concerning Russia: interference in the 2020 election, reports of Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, the SolarWinds attack and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

The administration announced sanctions against Russian officials over Navalny last month but has so far held off on action in the other three areas.

Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations that it meddles in elections, poisons its critics or offered to pay bounties for the killing of American troops. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia would retaliate for any new sanctions, which he dismissed as a “dumb” instrument.Those facing the next round of sanctions include individuals and entities blamed by the U.S. for enabling the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked troll farm that used a coordinated operation on social media in an effort to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.Actions in response to the malicious SolarWinds cyber activity will target about half a dozen entities linked to Russian security services, according to one of the people. Those measures are also expected to be announced as early as Thursday. The U.S. is also poised to name the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service as the perpetrator of the campaign, the person said.

The attack by hackers who compromised widely used software by Texas-based SolarWinds Corp. breached more than 100 U.S. companies and nine government agencies before it was discovered by a cybersecurity firm.

This week’s sanctions could be followed by further actions. Bloomberg News has previously reported that the U.S. is weighing other measures, including aimed at bonds issued by Russia.