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A Ukrainian flag outside the Ukrainian Consulate General building in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo: Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images

Russia on Saturday said it would expel a Ukrainian diplomat it accused of trying to obtain classified information, prompting Ukraine to say it would do the same to a Russian diplomat, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: The tit-for-tat expulsions come amid heightened tensions between the two countries over Russia's build-up of military personnel and equipment on Ukraine's eastern border where Ukrainian soldiers are fighting Kremlin-back separatist troops.

Context: Ukraine has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk Region since Russia illegally invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014

Russia detained Ukrainian diplomat Oleksandr Sosoniuk, accusing him of attempting to access Russian law enforcement data during a meeting with a Russian citizen.

  • Russia released Sosoniuk after detaining him for several hours and gave him until April 22 to leave the country.
  • The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry denied the accusation and said Sosoniuk's detention was a provocation. Ukraine then announced it would expel a Russian diplomat as well.

The big picture: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that work is underway to coordinate a meeting between Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia to attempt to restore a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine.

  • The previous ceasefire, negotiated by Ukraine and Russia through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in July 2020, has rapidly fell apart over the last few weeks.
  • President Biden affirmed U.S. support for Ukraine in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and raised concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up along Ukraine's border.

Go deeper

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.

Updated Apr 15, 2021 - World

U.S. imposes sweeping sanctions targeting Russian economy

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Biden administration announced it will sanction dozens of Russian officials and entities, expel 10 diplomats from the U.S., and set new restrictions on buying Russian sovereign debt in response to the massive SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and interference in the 2020 election.

Why it matters: The sweeping acts of retaliation are aimed at imposing heavy economic costs on Russia, after years of sanctions that have failed to deter an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian President Vladimir Putin.

Updated Apr 16, 2021 - World

Russia to expel 10 U.S diplomats, ban top Biden officials in response to sanctions

Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Russia will expel 10 U.S. diplomats and add eight current and former U.S. officials to its no-entry list in retaliation for sanctions that the Biden administration leveled at Moscow on Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday.

Why it matters: The measures come after the U.S. said it would expel 10 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover, as part of a broad package of sanctions retaliating against the SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and Russia's interference in the 2020 election.

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