The U.S. will impose new economic sanctions on two-dozen Russian individuals and entities for cyberattacks in the U.S. and meddling in the 2016 election, senior national security officials said Thursday.
From The Hill
The Treasury Department will target five entities and 19 individuals from Russia for actions ranging from the “destabilizing efforts” in the 2016 presidential election to the “NotPetya” malware attack, the costliest and most disruptive in history.
Treasury says it will freeze the assets and prohibit Americans from doing business with the accused Russians.
Some of those entities and individuals — including the “Internet Research Agency,” which allegedly used fake social media accounts to sow division in the U.S. — have already been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The new sanctions also target two Russian military intelligence firms and a half-dozen people associated with them.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are investigating what officials described as a two-year cyber-warfare campaign against U.S. government entities and critical infrastructure in the energy, nuclear, commercial, water, aviation and manufacturing sectors.
“The Administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia,” he continued. “Treasury intends to impose additional CAATSA sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the U.S. financial system.”
The new sanctions come amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
The U.S. and its allies say Moscow was behind a brazen chemical attack against a former Russian intelligence officer in Britain.
British prime minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats and the U.S. has signed on to a joint statement with its Western European allies slamming Russia for the “abhorrent” attack and demanding accountability from Moscow.
“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”
This week, United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley blamed Moscow for chemical strikes allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian government against its own people.
And on Wednesday — the four-year anniversary of Moscow annexing the disputed peninsula of Crimea — the State Department released a blistering statement condemning Russia’s “campaign of coercion and violence” there.
Treasury officials say that the administration has to date sanctioned more than 100 individuals and entities for the actions in Ukraine.
“In addition to countering Russia’s malign cyber activity, Treasury continues to pressure Russia for its ongoing efforts to destabilize Ukraine, occupy Crimea, meddle in elections, as well as for its endemic corruption and human rights abuses,” the department said in a statement.
“The recent use of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder two UK citizens further demonstrates the reckless and irresponsible conduct of its government.”
But the centerpiece of the new sanctions are related to Russian election meddling. They represent an aggressive action from Trump, who has been criticized for not doing enough to crack down on Moscow after his 2016 election victory.
Treasury is sanctioning the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and 15 individuals or LLCs associated with it.
Most of those individuals have already been charged in the Mueller investigation for allegedly setting up shop in the U.S. to run an interference campaign around the 2106 election.
Treasury laid out a long list of accusations against the IRA, alleging the group “altered, or caused a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions.”
Treasury accused the IRA of creating vast numbers of fake online personalities to pose as campaign organizers or interest groups; of posting thousands of fake campaign advertisements that reached millions of people online; of organizing political rallies on the left and right; and of opening bank accounts in the U.S. with stolen identities.
Treasury has also targeted two Russian intelligence organizations in retaliation for what officials described as widespread and persistent cyberattacks.
A group called the Federal Security Service used cyber tools to target journalists and politicians who were critical of the Russian government and is said to behind a 2014 hacking of Yahoo that compromised millions of email accounts.
And Treasury sanctioned the Main Intelligence Directorate, along with a half-dozen people associated with the group, for being behind the “NotPetya” cyber-attack.
Officials estimated that attack cost companies and individuals billions of dollars worldwide while wreaking havoc on the global shipping trade.