Russia has recalled its ambassador to the US for consultations, blaming President Joe Biden and his administration for leading relations between Moscow and Washington down a “blind alley” during his first weeks in office.
The move highlights the growing tensions between Moscow and Washington as Biden has taken more confrontational approach than his predecessor Donald Trump towards Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, on Wednesday said Anatoly Antonov, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, had been summoned home for talks on “preventing an irreversible deterioration in relations”.
The decision was disclosed after US intelligence released an unclassified report concluding that Putin authorised “influence operations” intended to support Trump’s bid for re-election in the 2020 presidential campaign and damage Biden.
The Biden administration has also been critical of the detention of Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident, and backed protesters demanding his release. During an interview with ABC on Wednesday, Biden said Putin would “pay a price” for interfering in the election and responded “I do” when asked if he believed that Putin was “a killer”.
A state department spokesperson said it was “aware of Moscow’s recent decision to recall their ambassador to the United States”. They added Washington was “committed to open channels of communication with the Russian government, both to advance US interests and reduce the risk of miscalculation between our countries”.
The state department spokesperson said there were no plans to respond by recalling John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Russia.
“The work he and the rest of the dedicated US diplomats in Russia do every day is vital to advancing American interests and our bilateral relationship,” the spokesperson said.
The US is considering imposing additional sanctions on Russia in response to Navalny’s detention, election interference, and the SolarWinds hack — a wide-ranging cyber espionage campaign directed at the US government and US companies.
These further measures are expected to be announced by the White House in the coming days, said two people familiar with the matter.
“Our relationship will look different. We will be direct, we will speak out on areas where we have concerns, and . . . certainly Russia will be held accountable for the actions that they have taken,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday. “We will have more on that soon.”
Additional reporting by Lauren Fedor in Washington