The United States imposed sanctions on the leader of Russia's southern region of Chechnya on Monday, prompting a vow from Russia to respond.
In its latest punitive measure against Russia, the U.S. State Department blacklisted Ramzan Kadyrov, 43, the president of Chechnya, and his immediate family, accusing him of human rights violations during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the department has "extensive credible information" of Kadyrov's responsibility "for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings".
The main impact of the sanctions, which add to those already in place, is to prohibit Kadyrov's wife and his two daughters from traveling to the U.S..
The U.S. has previously blacklisted Kadyrov, including under a 2012 law known as the Magnitsky Act, which imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials linked to the death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian auditor.
"Along with many other like-minded nations, the United States has repeatedly raised concerns about reports of Mr Kadyrov's violations publicly and privately," Pompeo said.
"We have already imposed economic sanctions on Mr Kadyrov and several of his associates, using multiple authorities.
"We are concerned that Mr Kadyrov is now using the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic to inflict further human rights abuses on the people of the Chechen Republic."
According to Pompeo's announcement, Kadyrov has threatened journalists who have reported on the government's attempts to intimidate people into avoiding tests for the coronavirus and called those reporters "enemies of the state".
"Today's action serves to notify Mr Kadyrov that his involvement in gross violations of human rights has consequences, both for him and his family, and that the United States is committed to using all the tools at our disposal to ensure accountability for those who engage in this abhorrent behavior," Pompeo said.
Kadyrov, whose Facebook and Instagram accounts have been suspended, breezily dismissed the U.S. State Department and Pompeo on another platform.
He responded to Monday's announcement on his Telegram channel with a photo of him smiling and standing in what appears to be an armory filled with weapons, holding light machine guns with tripods.
"Pompeo, we accept the fight! The further it goes the more interesting it gets," he said.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook in response to the sanctions that Russia vows to find a way to respond to the actions against Kadyrov.
"It will not be easy to give a tit-for-tat response but we will find a way to respond," she wrote.
Kadyrov took over as president of the Chechnya Republic in 2007 after his father was assassinated in a 2004 explosion in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.