There will be consequences for Russian attempts to meddle in last year's US elections, US President Joe Biden vowed in an interview on Wednesday, even as the Kremlin insisted there was no truth to the allegations.
"He will pay a price," Biden said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin during an ABC News interview before referencing a phone call the two had in January.
"I know him relatively well. And the conversation started off, I said, 'I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.'"
A report released on Tuesday by the office of national intelligence director Avril Haines alleges that Russia tried to influence the 2020 elections in favour of then incumbent president Donald Trump, in an attempt to sow discord in the country.
As it was, the election took weeks to be fully certified and, even now, many Americans insist that Trump actually won, although no proof of this fact has surfaced and multiple courts have ruled that Biden's win is certifiable.
According to the report, Putin and his government approved and carried out the action, which focused on a misinformation campaign unlike, according to allegations, in 2016 when it attempted to undermine the infrastructure of the electoral system.
Biden didn't say what the consequences might be for Putin, but also said the two countries can still work together on areas of joint interest.
However, when interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked whether the president thought that Putin was a "killer," Biden replied "I do."
The US Commerce Department later Wednesday announced that it was expanding export restrictions to Russia on certain goods in response to its use of chemical or biological weapons against its citizens.
The department, which mentioned the 2018 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, as well as that of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, said in a statement that it "is committed to preventing Russia from accessing sensitive US technologies that might be diverted to its malign chemical weapons activities."
Exceptions would be made until September 1 for certain goods, such as those used for civil aviation security, it added.
Even as the Biden interview was airing, the Kremlin was already denying the contents of the report, calling them "wrong, absolutely unfounded and untenable," in comments to Interfax.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia had not interfered in the 2020 US elections or any other. Alleging otherwise can only damage "already strained" US-Russian relations, he said.
Russia's ambassador in the US, Anatoly Antonov, was ordered to return to Moscow to discuss relations between the two countries, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said.
The new US administration has been in office for nearly two months now, and "this is a good reason to assess what the Biden team succeeds in doing and what it does not."
The conversation will about how to correct relations, which are currently at an "impasse," the ministry added.
"We are interested in preventing irreversible deterioration" in US-Russian relations.