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Russia To Expel 10 U.S. Diplomats, A Move U.S. Calls 'Regrettable'


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on April 16 that Moscow will ask 10 U.S. diplomats to leave the country in retaliation for Washington's expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats over alleged election interference, cyberattacks, and other malign actions.

"We will respond to this measure in a tit-for-tat manner. We will ask 10 U.S. diplomats in Russia to leave the country," Lavrov told reporters at a news conference with his Serbian counterpart.

The U.S. State Department on April 16 called the Russian expulsions “escalatory and regrettable."

"It is not in our interest to get into an escalatory cycle, but we reserve the right to respond to any Russian retaliation against the United States,” a State Department spokesperson said in an e-mail quoted in U.S. news reports.

The Russian move comes a day after the United States imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia in retaliation for election interference, cyberattacks, and what Washington described as Moscow's other "harmful" foreign activities.

In an executive order, President Joe Biden on April 15 announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sanctions against dozens other Russian individuals and entities as it moved to hold the Kremlin accountable for actions against the United States and its interests.

In a potential blow to the Russian economy, the U.S. Treasury also placed additional limits on U.S. banks operating in the Russian sovereign debt market in a step that may spook investors.

Lavrov also said that President Vladimir Putin's top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, had recommended that U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan return to Washington to conduct "serious consultations."

Russia's envoy to the United States last month returned to Moscow for consultations after Biden suggested that he believes Putin is a killer.

Lavrov said Moscow was also considering possible "painful" measures aimed at U.S. business in Russia and would place eight U.S. officials on a sanctions list.

Moscow also plans to end the activity in Russia of U.S. funds and nongovernmental organizations that interfere in the country's internal affairs, he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said five Polish diplomats would be expelled, in response to a similar move by Warsaw taken in solidarity with the United States.

In a symbolic act, the Foreign Ministry said eight top current and former U.S. government officials would also be banned from entering Russia, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

After announcing a raft of actions on April 15, Biden said the United States desires a stable, predictable relationship with Russia and is not looking to "kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict.”

The president also said there are areas in which the United States and Russia "can and should work together” and that in a phone call with Putin this week he suggested a summit over summer in Europe.

Lavrov said Moscow was "studying" Biden's proposal to hold a summit with Putin.

"We took the idea positively and are now considering various aspects of this initiative," Lavrov said.

Earlier on April 16, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was "good" that Biden was seeking dialogue with his Russian counterpart.

"President Putin has spoken about the appropriateness of building relations, normalizing relations, and de-escalating relations," Peskov told reporters.

"He has repeatedly said that we are ready to develop our dialogue to the degree that our counterparts are ready for this," he said, but pointed to divergent views on sticking points between the two nations.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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