Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Russia will expel 10 US diplomats, part of a series of measures meant to retaliate for President Joe Biden’s sweeping sanctions against the Kremlin Thursday.
Lavrov, speaking at a press conference in Moscow with his Serbian counterpart, described it as a “tit-for-tat response” to the Biden administration’s Thursday announcement of sanctions 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. Those measures 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 Russia will place eight US officials on a sanctions list, 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,” Lavroc 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.”
As part of Thursday’s announcement, the US also formally named the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service as the force behind the SolarWinds hack that affected the federal government and wide swaths of the private sector.
Biden said Thursday that the newly announced sanctions against Russia are 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.
Biden said during remarks at the White House that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call earlier in the week that he could have gone further with the measures. While he wanted to avoid escalating tensions, Biden made clear that he will not hesitate to take further action in the future.
“We cannot allow a foreign power to interfere in our democratic process with impunity,” Biden said.
He added, “I told (Putin) that we would shortly be responding in a measured and proportionate way because we had concluded that they had interfered in the election and SolarWinds was … totally inappropriate.”
The 10 Russian diplomats who are being expelled are based in Washington, DC, and New York, and will have 30 days to leave the country, a US official familiar with the plans explained. Asked how the US chose the 10 diplomats who will be expelled, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday that those individuals “were acting with a manner inconsistent with their status in the US,” and declined to provide further details.
On Thursday, Lavrov said Russia is considering more “painful” measures against US businesses.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
CNN’s Zahra Ullah contributed to this report