The Kremlin has vowed to respond to sanctions, the first major move against Russia by the Biden administration.
Moscow decried the United States punishments imposed for the alleged poisoning of opposition leader Alexey Navalny as a “hostile anti-Russian crack”.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement Tuesday that Moscow would react to the sanctions, announced earlier today, with “reciprocity and not necessarily symmetrically.”
She accused the United States of “trying to cultivate the image of an external enemy” in order to distract from internal issues.
She added: “We urge our colleagues not to play with fire.”
The statements echo those made Tuesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Moscow would react to US sanctions.
The US sanctions against 14 Russian entities and seven senior officials, which were taken in coordination with the European Union, are the most direct challenge President Joe Biden has launched at the Kremlin since taking office.
Navalny, 44, fell ill on a flight to Siberia in August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned by a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it had seen no evidence that he had been poisoned.
The opposition leader defiantly returned to Moscow in January, but was immediately arrested and convicted of parole violations on what he says are politically motivated charges. His arrest triggered widespread protests in Russia.
“The [US] The intelligence community believes with great confidence that agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia used a nerve agent to poison Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, ”the House spokeswoman said on Tuesday. Blanche, Jen Psaki, discussing sanctions.
The administration has framed the sanctions as part of a shift towards a confrontational approach to Russia compared to that of former President Donald Trump.
While the previous administration imposed sanctions on Moscow after determining that Russia had used a nerve agent on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK, Trump was widely criticized for not publicly adopting a harder line against Putin.
On Monday, Navalny was transferred to a notoriously harsh penal colony outside Moscow, in what critics said was an attempt to break him psychologically.