United States President Joe Biden has imposed new sanctions on Russia and expelled 10 of its diplomats in response to "specified harmful foreign activities".

In his executive order, Biden underscored Moscow's efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners. 

The sanctions target 32 individuals believed to have participated in government efforts to influence the 2020 US election. Among those individuals is Alexei Gromov, deputy chief of staff in the Russian president's office. 

Gromov is accused of leading a Russian campaign that sought to raise tensions in the United States by discrediting the 2020 US election process.

This is the first time the US directly blamed Moscow for the sophisticated hacking operation.

President Biden accused the Kremlin of engaging in and facilitate malicious cyber-enabled activities against the United States and its allies and partners.

Biden said Russian activities constituted an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.

The US President has declared a national emergency to deal with the threat posed by Russia.

The executive order also puts major restrictions on Russia's sovereign debt that will cause problems for Russia to raise money and support its currency.

Russia assures reciprocity

Reacting to the sanctions, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "We consider any pursuit of sanctions as illegal. In any case, the principle of reciprocity in this matter is valid. Reciprocity in a way that best serves our interests."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has confirmed that Moscow has summoned the US ambassador for a "hard conversation" but stopped short of listing specific retaliatory actions.