After President Joe Biden referred Putin as a “killer,” Russia recalled the ambassador to Moscow, signaling a drastic deterioration in relations between the two countries.

The news followed once the White House sent a strong reproach to Russia—while Moscow rebuffed allegations, that it is a “malign” force in foreign affairs.

A recent report by U.S. intelligence laid out Russia’s plan to influence the 2020 elections, just days after the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Russian officials in response to the poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the FSB, was among those sanctioned.

The unprecedented move by Russia—a concession attempting to give a stern political signal—came after Biden ripped into Putin and threatened that he would ‘pay a price.’

This is just the latest attempt by the Biden team to try and distance itself from former President Donald Trump, who consistently lauded Putin; even claimed to support him as he dismissed accusations of election tampering at their notorious Helsinki summit.

While Trump’s repeated attempts to improve ties with Moscow, his administration tightened sanctions on Russia under laws passed; more pressure for Russia’s Crimea annexation in 2014.

Biden made his the ‘price’ statement about Putin paying a price shortly after the U.S. National Intelligence released a report claiming Russian intelligence officials fed misinformation about the Bidens to Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2020 election as part of an election hacking attempt.

According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry statement, “The Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, has been invited to come to Moscow for consultations conducted with the aim of analyzing what should be done and where to go in the context of ties with the United States.”

Russian officials said they would meet with their Washington ambassador on the Kremlin’s dealings with the United States, but that they want to avoid an “irreversible deterioration” of relations.

And in the high-stakes drama of nuclear war, calling back an ambassador can be less dramatic than it seems. 

Prior to the publication of a 15-page report, the United States hinted that new sanctions against Russia would be imposed.

“I don’t have anything more for you to provide analysis on that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked about Biden’s ‘killer’ remark on Wednesday.

Psaki even defended Biden’s stance, saying that Biden “does not hold back on his concerns about what we see as malign and problematic actions” for election interfere, alleged bounties on US soldiers, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s poisoning.

In reaction to Navalany’s poisoning, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday that it is increasing restrictions on certain Russian exports. The sanctions in place from the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal were tightened. Skripal was a former Russian military intelligence officer, in the United Kingdom.

Psaki said that Biden is not about to “hold back on his direct communications, nor is he going to hold back publicly. And we have still found ways to work together on areas where we have mutual interests.” 

In an interview that aired on Wednesday morning, Biden hammered Putin, “He will pay a price,” Biden said, without elaborating.

Biden added, ‘We had a long talk, he and I. 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.’

The president said when pressed for clarification, ‘The price he’s going to pay, well, you’ll see shortly.’

Biden said he wouldn’t say what penalties he’d impose but it is in both America and Russia’s “interests to work together.’

Biden’s remarks came after his Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, issued a report that while Putin did sanction a manipulation operation, Russia did not target the 2020 U.S. election.

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