US sanctions four Ukrainians for aiding Russian influence operations
The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on four current and former Ukrainian government officials whom the U.S. says are working to help carry out Russian influence operations in Ukraine.
The State and Treasury Departments announced plans to sanction the individuals, which include two current members of Ukraine’s parliament and who the U.S. has linked to Russia’s intelligence services, on Thursday amid rising fears of a renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the individuals are acting at the direction of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, and supporting “Russia’s destabilizing and dangerous influence operations, which undermine not just Ukraine but also the fundamental principles of democracy.”
Blinken described the penalties as “separate and distinct” from economic sanctions that the U.S. and its European allies are preparing to impose on Russia in the event that Moscow launches a further military invasion of Ukraine. Blinken reiterated that those measures, which the Biden administration has not detailed publicly, would “inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system.”
“This action is intended to target, highlight, and undercut Russia’s ongoing destabilization effort in Ukraine,” Blinken said of the sanctions being imposed on Ukrainians linked to the FSB operations.
The Biden administration is imposing the sanctions on Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn, two current members of Ukraine’s parliament who belong to the party led by pro-Russian politician Victor Medvedchuk.
According to the Treasury Department, Kozak controls a collection of news channels in Ukraine and used them to “falsely accuse” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration of mismanaging the COVID-19 pandemic and promote “false narratives” about the 2020 U.S. presidential election espoused by Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker.
Under the Trump administration, Derkach, who met with former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, was identified by the U.S. government as an active Russian agent.
Treasury said that Voloshyn has worked with Russian “actors to undermine Ukrainian government officials and advocate on behalf of Russia.”
The Biden administration also identified Voloshyn as an associate of Konstantin Kilimnik, a former business partner of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has also been subject to sanctions for attempting to influence the 2020 election.
According to Treasury’s public statement, Oliynyk fled to Russia to help gather information about Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, which has been a target of Russian cyber operations.
Treasury also said that, last year, Sivkovich worked with Russian intelligence to execute influence operations “that attempted to build support for Ukraine to officially cede Crimea to Russia in exchange for a drawdown of Russian-backed forces in the Donbas.”
Sivkovich also helped Derdach promote false narratives about the 2020 election and supported an influence operation targeting the U.S. in 2019 and 2020, according to the Biden administration.
The announcement comes on the eve of Blinken’s planned meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. The Biden administration is trying to convince Russia not to invade Ukraine by offering diplomatic talks as an off ramp while also threatening steep economic penalties.
Updated 11:40 a.m.
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