Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday, April 16, that his country will expel 10 US diplomats, curb the activity of US non-profit groups in the country and sanction US officials in a series of retaliatory measures after US President Joe Biden placed sweeping sanctions against the Kremlin on Thursday this week.
Lavrov, speaking at a press conference in Moscow with his Serbian counterpart, described the measures as a “tit-for-tat response” over US moves to punish Moscow for its interference in the 2020 US election, its SolarWinds cyberattack and its ongoing occupation and “severe human rights abuses” in Crimea.
The US penalties included the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in Washington, including “representatives of Russian intelligence services,” for the cyber hack and the election meddling.
“Ten diplomats were on a list the US side handed over to us asking to ensure their leaving the United States. We will give a tit-for-tat response to that. We will also ask 10 US diplomats to leave our country,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov said that Russia will also place eight US officials on a sanctions list later Friday, without specifying who would be targeted.
“Some time ago, before the package [of sanctions] recently announced by Biden, the Americans added eight representatives of Russian structures, the Russian leadership, including the presidential administration and the Prosecutor General’s Office, to the sanctions list,” Lavrov said.
“Today we will publish a list of eight officials who represent the governing structures of the Washington administration. They will also be included in our sanctions list.”
Lavrov said the Kremlin will move against US non-profit groups immediately, saying, “we will restrict and terminate the activities on our territory of American foundations and non-governmental organizations, which in fact, directly interfere in our domestic political life.”
Russia is also considering more “painful” measures against US businesses, Lavrov.
“For obvious reasons, we do not have comparable levers of influence on the United States of this scale,” Lavrov said Friday, adding that “our experts” believe the Russian economy can handle it.
“In any case, we have found and will find a way out of any situation. But we also have the opportunity to take painful measures against American business. We will keep them in reserve,” Lavrov warned.
Biden said Thursday that the sanctions against Russia were a proportionate response to cyber-attacks against the US and interference in two presidential elections, but also emphasized that “now is the time to de-escalate” tensions with the country.