Treasury Dept. sanctions Russian, Ukrainian individuals for election interference

Treasury Dept. sanctions Russian, Ukrainian individuals for election interference
© Greg Nash

The Treasury Department on Thursday added four Russian and Ukrainian individuals to its specially designated nationals list, citing attempts by the individuals to interfere in U.S. elections. 

One of the individuals added to the list was Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian member of parliament, who was cited by William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, last month for spreading disinformation to “undermine” former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll GOP set to release controversial Biden report Can Donald Trump maintain new momentum until this November? MORE.

“Pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” Evanina wrote in an assessment released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month, which warned Russia, China and Iran were actively interfering in the 2020 elections. 

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The Treasury Department noted that Derkach was added to the list for efforts to spread disinformation around officials involved in the U.S. 2020 elections in order to advance Russian interests in Ukraine and “almost certainly” targeted U.S. voters with this information through releasing edited tapes, interviews and statements that were published in some Western media. 

Three Russian individuals based in St. Petersburg — Anton Andreyev, Darya Aslanova and Artem Lifshits — were also designated by the Treasury Department on Thursday for their work supporting the cryptocurrency accounts of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm that was previously sanctioned for interfering in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. 

“Andrii Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid House Democrats plan to unveil bill next week to avert shutdown MORE said in a statement. “The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system.”

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump steps up Iran fight in final election stretch MORE said in a separate statement that “this action sends a clear signal: the United States will not hesitate to use all tools of national power to respond to foreign actors that seek to interfere in or otherwise influence our elections by any means.”

The four individuals are blocked from accessing the U.S. assets, and U.S. citizens are generally banned from doing business with them. 

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The Treasury Department made the move using powers granted to the agency by an executive order signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE in 2018, which allows the Treasury Department to impose sanctions in the event of foreign interference in elections.

The designation of the individuals comes a week after Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRepublican senator says plans to confirm justice before election 'completely consistent with the precedent' Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year MORE (D-N.Y.) and the top Democrats on 10 Senate committees sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging him to impose sanctions on Russian individuals and groups interfering in U.S. elections, including on Derkach.

“Congress mandated a broad range of sanctions tools, and it is long past time for the administration to send a direct message to President Putin: the U.S. will respond immediately and forcefully to continuing election interference by the government of the Russian Federation and its surrogates, to punish, deter and substantially increase the economic and political costs of such interference,” the Senate Democrats wrote.

The move also comes as concerns increase around foreign interference in elections. An assessment from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) first reported by ABC News last week detailed evidence that Russian media and other groups were “amplifying” concerns around mail-in voting to undermine confidence in U.S. elections. 

ABC News also reported that a second bulletin, withheld by DHS in July, detailed concerns that Russian groups were seeking to use “allegations of the poor mental health” of Biden to sway the election. 

Concerns around election security have been widespread following Russian interference efforts in the lead up to the 2016 elections and some efforts during the 2018 midterms elections. 

The U.S. previously imposed sanctions on multiple Russians and on the IRA for interfering in the 2018 midterm elections through spreading disinformation on social media.

The IRA and several of the same Russians were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018 for interfering in U.S. elections two years earlier through the use of cyberattacks and other techniques.