Russia will expel 10 U.S. diplomats and would initiate other retaliatory actions in response to recent sanctions issued by President Joe Biden’s administration.
“Ten diplomats were on a list the U.S. 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 ten U.S. diplomats to leave our country,” he told a news conference.
The Biden administration said Thursday that the sanctions would affect about three dozen Russian individuals and entities over what it said was attempts to interfere in the 2020 election as well as a cyberattack that was allegedly carried out on behalf of Moscow against SolarWinds, a software suite used by several federal agencies.
The White House executive order was designed to send a message to the Kremlin that the White House will “impose costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russia if it continues or escalates its destabilizing international actions,” including “efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections” and institutions in the United States.
And Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin told U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan about Russia’s response.
“Nobody has canceled the principle of reciprocity in such matters, it is a fundamental principle,” Peskov told reporters in Russia, according to the Washington Post. “Yet again, everything will depend on the decision to be made by the head of state.”
However, Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Biden had agreed on deescalating tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries.
“President Putin talked about the feasibility of building, normalizing, and de-escalating our relations,” Peskov said. “He talks about it consistently. He is convinced of it. He has stated repeatedly that we are ready to develop our dialogue to the extent that our counterparts are ready to do it.”
Lavrov also noted that while Russia could take “painful measures” against American business interests in Russia, it wouldn’t immediately move to do that and “save them for future use.”
He warned that if Washington moves to further crank up the pressure, Russia might ask the United States to reduce the number of its embassy and consular staff from about 450 to 300. He said Russia and the United States each have about 450 diplomats, but for Russia the number includes some 150 UN personnel that he argued shouldn’t be part of the equation.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the U.S. State Department for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.