The Biden administration will take action against Russia over the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats for allegedly working with a contractor who was collecting information on the war in Ukraine, the State Department said on Thursday.
Russia’s decision to expel the diplomats was “wholly without merit” and the Biden administration will “respond appropriately to their actions,” according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. The Biden administration announced a slew of new sanctions against Russia earlier Thursday in an effort to strangle the country’s access to western technology, the Associated Press reported Thursday. (RELATED: Kim Jong Un Vows To Back Russia’s ‘Sacred Fight’ Against Ukraine During Rare Meeting With Putin)
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that two diplomats – U.S. Embassy first secretary Jeffrey Sillin and second secretary David Bernstein – had “kept in touch” with a former Russian contractor working for the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok, who was arrested earlier this year for collecting information on the war in Ukraine, according to the AP. Miller maintained that the diplomats were “just doing their jobs” and the contractor was arrested for “completely legal tasks.”
“This unprovoked expulsion of our diplomatic personnel is wholly without merit,” Miller said during a press briefing on Thursday. “As is the case against a former Russian contractor of our embassy who was arrested for the supposedly nefarious task of performing such activities as providing our embassy with media clips. Yet again, Russia has chosen confrontation and escalation over constructive diplomatic engagement.”
“It continues to harass employees of our own embassy just as it continues to intimidate its own citizens,” Miller said. “You can certainly expect that we will respond appropriately to their actions.
Miller did not provide details as to what a response would look like or when it would take place, though Miller noted it would happen “expeditiously.” The two diplomats have seven days to leave the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The news came hours after an announcement from the Biden administration that it would be imposing sweeping sanctions against 150 people and businesses between Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Georgia, according to the Associated Press. The sanctions package aims to target those individuals that sell Western technology to Russia as the country tries to skirt Western sanctions.