WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration on Thursday announced sanctions against19 Russian individuals and five Russian entities for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election.
The sanctions, which also include penalties for engaging in cyber-attacks, target 13 Russians who were recently indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative probe.
“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,” Mnuchin 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.”
Also Thursday, President Donald Trump, who has been vocally skeptical of the election allegations, issued a statement with British, French and German leaders accusing Moscow of poisoning an ex-Russian spy who was living in England, allegations that Russian officials were quick to deny.
“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” the statement by Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
Stating Moscow was handling the sanctions “calmly”, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Russia had already begun “to prepare a response” which he said would come shortly. In the meantime, Ryabkov suggested the Trump administration had intentionally timed the sanctions to come ahead of this weekend’s Russian presidential election, an election that Putin was expected to easily win.
“It is tied to U.S. internal disorder, tied of course to our electoral calendar,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the Russian state news agency Tass.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who ran the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, and 12 of the agency’s employees, is one of the most notable Russians to be named in the sanctions.
Prigozhin and his agency, said Meuller, “tampered with, altered or caused a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions,” specifically the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
“The IRA created and managed a vast number of fake online personas that posed as legitimate U.S. persons to include grass-roots organizations, interest groups and a state political party on social media,” the Treasury Department statement said. “Through this activity, the IRA posted thousands of ads that reached millions of people online.”