Published: Fri, March 16, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

U.S. sanctions Russian Federation for election meddling, hacking

U.S. sanctions Russian Federation for election meddling, hacking

The alert coincided with the U.S. Treasury Department announcing it had slapped sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five groups, including Moscow's intelligence services, for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other malicious cyber attacks. Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a financial backer to the Internet Research Agency with deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also included.

Senior US national security officials told reporters that Thursday's announcement marked the first time sanctions have been issued under CAATSA.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, released a statement following the indictment last month highlighting that Russia's efforts to meddle in the election began in 2014, before President Donald Trump declared his candidacy. Trump on Thursday also joined the leaders of Britain, France and Germany in blaming Moscow for the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy who was living in England. -Russian relations despite Trump's stated desire for improved ties.

"The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyberactivity, including their attempted interference in USA elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure", said Mnuchin said.

The agency "tampered with, altered or caused a misappropriation of information with the objective or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions, " specifically the 2016 US presidential race.

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied interfering in the USA election process, calling the charges an absurd distraction from pressing domestic issues including corruption.

The move marks the White House's most significant response yet to Russia's interference in the 2016 United States election, but it comes more than one month after a congressional deadline to enact sanctions.

In an announcement, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said the entities and individuals were designated under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as well as Executive Order 13694. The sanctions list included the 13 Russians indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose Russia investigation the president has repeatedly sought to discredit. Trump called it "something that should never, ever happen, and we're taking it very seriously, as I think are many others".

The new sanctions marked the first time the USA government stated publicly that Russian Federation had attempted to break into the American energy grid.

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US national security officials said the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence agencies determined Russian intelligence and others were behind a broad range of cyberattacks starting a year ago.

"We were able to identify where they were located within those business systems and remove them from those business systems", the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Mnuchin did not give a time frame for those sanctions, which he said would sever the individuals' access to the US financial system.

The fresh sanctions package targets Russia's Federal Security Service, along with the Main Intelligence Directorate.

Thursday's action blocks all property of those targeted that is subject to US jurisdiction and prohibits American citizens from engaging in transactions with them.

But Mr Mnuchin was unequivocal in saying that Thursday's Treasury action "counters Russia's continuing destabilising activities, ranging from interference in the 2016 election to conducting destructive cyber-attacks".

Thursday's announcement comes as The New York Times reveals special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organisation to turn over documents, including some related to Russian Federation.

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions amid withering criticism of Trump and his administration for failing to use its congressionally mandated authority to punish Russian Federation.

"Even more must be done", said Republican Sen.

The sanctions, which US officials had hinted would be announced this week, were not directly linked to the poisoning in Britain of a retired Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter, though Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin cited the case as an example of what he called was Russia's reckless actions.

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