The move comes a day after Washington announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what it says is interference by the Kremlin in US elections, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activities.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, bottom, looks on as Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via video call during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on December 17, 2020.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, bottom, looks on as Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via video call during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on December 17, 2020. (AP)

Russia has said that it would ban a string of top officials in US President Joe Biden's administration from entering the country.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, Biden's chief domestic policy advisor Susan Rice and FBI chief Christopher Wray would be barred, the Foreign Ministry said.

Also on the list were Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Michael Carvajal, Donald Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton and ex-head of the CIA Robert Woolsey.

The ministry said the officials had "participated in the anti-Russian push" of US politics.

Lists of officials banned from entry are usually kept secret, but the ministry said it was revealing the names due to the "unprecedented nature" of the current tensions with Washington.

READ MORE: Biden says 'now is the time' for the US and Russia to 'deescalate'

Russia welcomes dialogue offer

The Kremlin said that it was "good" that Biden was seeking dialogue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin but criticised the United States for a fresh bout of sanctions on Moscow.

Biden's offer earlier this week of a summit between the leaders amounted to a peace offering as tensions between Russia and the West were escalating over the conflict in Ukraine and the new penalties levied by Washington.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Friday said that Putin has long talked about the importance of normalising relations between Moscow and Washington.

"He has repeatedly said that we are ready to develop our dialogue to the degree that our counterparts are ready for this," he said.

"It is indeed good that the points of view of the two heads of state coincide on this."

But Peskov also blasted a new round of penalties imposed by Washington on Moscow Thursday, saying America's "addiction for sanctions remains unacceptable."

The Kremlin spokesperson noted that Putin last month had suggested that he and Biden hold virtual talks that did not come to fruition as Washington did not respond to the proposal.

He said that the Kremlin was still considering Biden's offer for a summit, as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Friday offered his country as a venue for the possible meeting.

Earlier this week Niinisto said he and Putin had spoken and the two discussed "the planned meeting" with Biden.

Tensions have been rising sharply between Washington and Moscow in recent weeks as Russia massed forces on Ukraine's northern and eastern borders, and on the Crimean peninsula it annexed in 2014.

US forces in Europe raised their alert status in response, while NATO issued warnings to Moscow.

READ MORE: US, EU slap sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning and jailing

New US sanctions 

Despite the call for cooling tensions, Washington on Thursday angered Moscow by imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia for alleged election interference and hacking.

The penalties widened restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies and sanctioned 32 individuals accused of meddling in the 2020 US presidential vote.

Biden on Thursday described the sanctions as a "measured and proportionate" response to Moscow's hostile actions with the United States and said Washington is "not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict."

The Kremlin responded to the penalties on Thursday saying they will not "help" plans for a potential summit.

But analysts say that even though sanctions were the toughest in several years, they do not pose a threat to the Kremlin.

"The Russian market felt some relief," the Renaissance Capital investment bank said in an analyst note on Friday, because the sanctions were "moderate."

Sanctions as a tool for punishing Moscow have become routine since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and fighting erupted between Kiev's forces and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Relations have plunged further more recently, with Washington accusing Moscow of interfering in its presidential elections in 2016 and 2020.

This year even before the recent alarm over the Ukraine conflict, tensions had ratcheted up sharply after the United States slapped sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

Ties then hit rock bottom last month after Biden, who promised to take a firmer line on Moscow than his predecessor Donald Trump, agreed with a description of Putin as a "killer."

Russia to close parts of Black Sea

Russia will restrict the navigation of foreign military and official ships in parts of the Black Sea until October, a Russian news agency reported Friday, a move that was swiftly condemned by Ukraine and the EU.

This week Russia also conducted navy drills in the Black Sea.

"From 21:00 on April 24 until 21:00 on October 31, passage through the territorial sea of the Russian Federation for foreign military ships and other state vessels will be halted," the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited a Defence Ministry statement as saying.

The restrictions will affect the western tip of Crimea, the peninsula's southern coastline from Sevastopol to Hurzuf, and a "rectangle" off the Kerch peninsula near the Opuksky Nature Reserve.

A senior European Union official described the move as a "highly worrying development."

The move contradicts norms of free maritime passage and international law and adds to tensions around "the military buildup on the other side of the Russian border with Ukraine," the official said.

READ MORE: Ukraine accuses Russia of 'openly' threatening destruction

Source: TRTWorld and agencies