Published: Sat, March 17, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Trump administration sanctions Russians for 2016 election interference, other cyber attacks

Trump administration sanctions Russians for 2016 election interference, other cyber attacks

The United States slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for US election meddling and cyber attacks but put off targeting oligarchs and government officials close to President Vladimir Putin, prompting lawmakers in both parties to say President Donald Trump needs to do much more.

Some of the sanctioned entities and individuals were accused of being related to Russia's Internet Research Agency LLC (IRA), which the U.S. Treasury said has "tampered with, altered, or caused a misappropriation of information" to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election.

United States officials have accused Russian Federation of staging an ongoing attempt to penetrate the energy grid as they unveiled a range of fresh sanctions over recent cyber-attacks.

"These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russian Federation", he stated.

"If President Trump believes that today's action sufficiently addresses the sanctions package Congress sent to respond forcefully to Moscow's election interference, then he is sorely mistaken".

But majority were already under USA sanctions or were previously named in an indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller, making many lawmakers and experts question what impact the new measures might have.

The Treasury Department also imposed new sanctions on two Russian security agencies for their role in a devastating cyberattack a year ago that started in Ukraine and spread around the world, causing billions of dollars of damage.

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Among those affected were Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as "Putin's chef" and who ran the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, and 12 of the agency's employees. Additionally, the administration alerted the public that Russian Federation is targeting the USA energy grid with computer malware that could sabotage the systems.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Vladimir Putin's government will need to "decide if they want to be a good actor or a bad actor".

"Specifically, the FSB has utilized its cyber tools to target Russian journalists and politicians critical of the Russian government; Russian citizens and government officials; former officials from countries bordering Russia; and USA government officials, including cyber security, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel".

In February, nations in the Five Eyes alliance - the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand - took the unprecedented step of each publicly accusing the Russian government of authoring NotPetya.

It says the actions staged by Russian "government cyber actors" have been going on since at least 2016. The Treasury Department also said that by redesignating the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the GRU under the congressional legislation, it will give the department greater ability to levy further sanctions on them.

"As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to USA jurisdiction are blocked, and USA persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them", the US Treasury said.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said there would be additional sanctions against Russian government officials and oligarchs "for their destabilising activities".

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A senior administration official told Reuters that Trump, who campaigned on warmer ties with Putin, had grown exasperated with Russian activity.

The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security information. "So, President Trump, are you going to get smart about the threat Russian Federation poses to the United States and our allies?"

"Russia's behavior or lack thereof on the world stage is continuing to trouble us", a second senior administration official said.

"The recent use of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder two United Kingdom citizens further demonstrates the reckless and irresponsible conduct of its government", the Treasury said.

Since these sanctions are punishments for actions taken in cyberspace a couple of continents removed from their targets, I'm not sure how much of a punishment a travel ban really is, and it's hard to imagine that these entities have a lot of assets here in the U.S. Both women are named in the Mueller indictment and Russian sanctions announcement.

The Internet Research Agency, which was run by Prigozhin, was found to have 'tampered with, altered, or caused a misappropriation of information with the goal or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions, ' specifically the 2016 United States presidential race, the department said.

A separate set of sanctions was imposed on two Russian spy agencies. The sanctions also target six Russians who worked for the military intelligence organization, four of whom are already sanctioned.

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