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US prepares sanctions against Russia over cyber attacks, election interference

The Biden administration is preparing to announce US sanctions in response to a massive Russian hacking campaign that breached vital federal agencies, as well as for election interference, a senior administration official said today.

The sanctions, foreshadowed for weeks by the administration, would represent the first retaliatory action announced against the Kremlin for last year’s hack, familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach.

In that intrusion, Russian hackers are believed to have infected widely used software with malicious code, enabling them to access the networks of at least nine agencies in what US officials believe was an intelligence-gathering operation aimed at mining US government secrets.

Besides that hack, US officials last month alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised influence operations to help Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid for re-election as president, though there’s no evidence Russia or anyone else changed votes or manipulated the outcome.

Read more: President of Belarus accuses Russia of lying, warns of revolution plot

The measures are to be announced tomorrow, according to the official, who was not authorised to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear what, if any, other actions might be planned. Officials had previously said they expected to take actions both seen and unseen.

The sanctions, presumably intended to send a clear retributive message to Russia and to deter similar acts in the future, come amid an already tense relationship between the US and Russia.

President Joe Biden told Putin this week in their second call to “de-escalate tensions” following a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border, and said the US would “act firmly in defence of its national interests” regarding Russian intrusions and election interference.

In a television interview last month, Biden replied “I do” when asked if he thought Putin was a “killer”. He said the days of the US “rolling over” to Putin were done.

Putin later recalled his ambassador to the US and pointed at the US history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.

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