The Russians targeted by new US sanctions over election meddling
The latest US sanctions against Russians are aimed at punishing those responsible for cyber attacks and attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections.
Washington said the issuing of the sanctions was also motivated by other factors, including the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury.
The US treasury also referred to last year’s massive ransomware attack, known as NotPetya, that the US and Britain have blamed on the Russian military.
The sanctions target 19 people and five legal entities, including Russian intelligence officials. They ban US assets and citizens from business dealings with them.
– Troll factory –
Most of the new sanctions target those involved in a so-called Russian “troll factory” operation that US authorities say flooded social media with posts intended to sway the 2016 election.
Twelve of those hit by the new sanctions are said to have worked for the Internet Research Agency based in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, while the agency itself has also been blacklisted.
The US special prosecutor investigating Moscow’s meddling indicted 13 Russians in February for allegedly running the secret campaign.
They are all included on the latest sanctions list.
– ‘Putin’s chef’ –
The most prominent name on the sanctions list is Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who has been nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because his Concord company has provided catering for the Kremlin and he has been photographed with the president.
Prigozhin has already been under US sanctions since December 2016 for having “materially assisted” senior officials of the Russian Federation and for “extensive business dealings” with the defence ministry over the conflict in Ukraine.
The US has now updated the details of his sanctions listing, adding that he and his Concord company provided “material assistance” to the troll factory, which Washington says he owns or controls. He has denied this.
Prigozhin brushed off the sanctions on Thursday, saying he has no business interests in the US or with Americans. “I’ll stop going to McDonald’s,” he joked in a comment to RIA Novosti state news agency.
– Spies –
The sanctions list also targets those described as “cyber actors operating on behalf of the Russian government”.
It adds Sergei Afanasyev and Grigory Molchanov, who are both referred to as senior officials in the military intelligence agency GRU.
The list also includes secret service officials who are already under US sanctions, including the head of GRU Igor Korobov and three of his deputies.
The military intelligence agency itself and the FSB security agency, the successor to the KGB, are also sanctioned.