A U.S. senator says that Russia and President Vladimir Putin will be hit with tough sanctions as a result of suspected Russian cyberattacks during last month's U.S. presidential election.
Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said in Latvia on December 28 that Congress will investigate charges that Moscow interfered in the November 8 election and that "bipartisan sanctions [by Congress]...will hit Russia hard, particularly Putin as an individual."
Graham did not elaborate on the possible sanctions.
Russian officials have rejected any involvement in the presidential election that was won by Republican Donald Trump.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova repeated those denials on December 28, and promised retaliation if Washington went through with new sanctions.
"If Washington actually takes new hostile steps, then it will get a response," she said.
She also called the reports a "provocation directed by the White House."
Graham is on a three-day visit to the Baltics with fellow Senators John McCain (Republican-Arizona) and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota), after which they will travel to Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro.
Both McCain and Graham serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which plays a pivotal role in crafting U.S. defense policy. McCain, who heads the committee, has also pledged to investigate alleged Russian hacking during the election campaign.
All three Baltics states -- Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia-- fear Russia's increasingly aggressive policies toward them, particularly since they joined NATO and the European Union.
The United States and other NATO members are deploying small advance military units to the three countries, along with other deployments to Poland and elsewhere. The effort is aimed at presenting a small, but symbolic deterrent to Russia.
"I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what [former U.S. President] Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength," McCain told reporters in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, on December 28.
"And the best way to prevent Russian misbehavior is by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance," he added.
With reporting by AP and Reuters