Today, Thursday, Feb. 17, news broke that the Kremlin expelled a second official from the U.S. embassy in Moscow last week without giving any reason to justify the decision, in the midst of escalating tensions with the West.

The expulsion of the deputy chief of mission, Bart Gorman, considered a key member of the diplomatic delegation, was confirmed by a State Department spokesman, The Hill said.

The move, which was described as “unprovoked,” is seen by the U.S. government as a step in the “escalation” of bilateral tensions, and according to the spokesman, Washington is evaluating a “response.”

“We call on Russia to end its baseless expulsions of U.S. diplomats and staff and to work productively to rebuild our missions,” the spokesman said. “Now more than ever, it is critical that our countries have the necessary diplomatic personnel in place to facilitate communication between our governments.”

The Kremlin had expelled Michelle Michalenko, Gorman’s private chef, in January. The recently expelled diplomat had been in Moscow for 3 years, the State Department said.

This Thursday, President Joe Biden said the threat of invasion is “very high,” and could be in the coming days, as he told reporters at the White House, they have not withdrawn any of their troops, but have moved more. However, he also remained hopeful that a diplomatic solution could be reached.

While Russia claimed this week that it had withdrawn troops, NATO allies rejected such claims and believe that the Kremlin has some 150,000 military forces massed around Ukraine’s borders.

Putin said again this week that he has no intention of going to war and is “ready to follow the path of negotiations,” although he did not commit to a full troop withdrawal and said the next moves in the standoff will depend on how the situation evolves.

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