US imposes sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five groups

WASHINGTON • The United States has imposed sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five groups, including Moscow's intelligence services, for malicious cyber attacks and meddling in the 2016 US election, the Treasury Department said yesterday.

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

Mr Mnuchin did not give a timeframe for those sanctions, which he said would sever the individuals' access to the US financial system.

"The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber attacks and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure," he said in a statement.

The sanctions came at the same time the Trump administration joined a collective statement with Britain, France and Germany yesterday denouncing Russia for its apparent role in a nerve gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, calling it a "clear violation" of international law.

But the statement included no joint action in response.

It was the most significant action taken against Moscow since US President Donald Trump took office.

The US sanctions announced yesterday targeted many of the same Russian organisations and operatives identified by Mr Robert Mueller, the special counsel, in an indictment that outlined an audacious attempt to spread disinformation and propaganda to disrupt US democracy and, eventually, influence the 2016 election on behalf of Mr Trump.

The indictment said Russians adopted false online personas to push divisive messages, travelled to the US to collect intelligence and staged political rallies while posing as Americans.

Among the organisations sanctioned were the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB known by its Russian acronym FSB, and Russian military intelligence, known as GRU, although they, like a few others, were previously penalised under past actions for the intervention in Ukraine.

The sanctions also responded to other cyber attacks, including a previously undisclosed attempt to penetrate the US energy grid.

In addition to the election meddling, the attacks cited by the Treasury Department included the NotPetya cyber attack that caused billions of dollars in damage in the US, Europe and Asia in what the department called "the most destructive and costly cyber attack in history".

The action came a day after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other measures in response to the poisoning attack, but its allies announced no similar efforts.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'US imposes sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe