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Russia targets scores of US officials in tit-for-tat sanction spree

The Russian foreign ministry's building in the capital Moscow

Russia has imposed sanctions on scores of American officials, retaliating for Washington's stepped-up campaign of striking Russian figures with similar coercive measures.

The Russian foreign ministry announced the sanctions on Wednesday, identifying the targets as 77 Americans, including 33 governors of US states.

It said the designated officials were being permanently banned from entering the Russian Federation and called the sweeping measures a response to Washington's "hostile actions."

The rest of the US figures on the list featured mid-ranking state and federal officials.

The United States and the European Union have unleashed an unprecedented sanction war against Russia since last February when Moscow began a special military operation against its neighbor Ukraine.

Moscow says the operation aims to stop Kiev's persecution of the pro-Russian population in eastern Ukraine and also serves to "de-Nazify" the ex-Soviet republic.

The Western sanctions have targeted hundreds of Russian officials, barring them from entering the Western territory and freezing their assets.

The retaliatory Russian measures, the Russian ministry said, were also aimed at punishing the US over its support for Ukraine during the nearly-one-year-old conflict.

The support has seen Washington providing Kiev with a whole host of American weapons, including long-range missiles and battle tanks.

Russia has repeatedly warned that pumping Kiev full of Western arms and slapping Moscow with the sanctions would only work to prolong the already drawn-out conflict.

The Kremlin has not ruled out negotiation as means of ending the war, but has asserted that any talks would have to take into account its security concerns, including the likelihood of Ukraine's inclusion into the US-led military alliance of NATO.

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