Cybersecurity

Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities

The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against eight individuals and seven groups related to efforts by Russia to spread malign influence around elections and to evade sanctions. 

Sanctions were levied against two groups and three employees that do business in the Central African Republic due to their ties to Russian operative Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an individual who was previously indicted by former special counsel Robert Mueller for his interference efforts in the 2016 presidential election.

Prigozhin, who is known as "Putin's chef" due to the Kremlin's use of his catering service for official functions, is the leader and main source of funding for the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that was also indicted by Mueller for spreading disinformation ahead of the 2016 elections.  

Both Prigozhin and the Internet Research Agency were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018 for election interference. The agency took further actions last year against Prigozhin by targeting his physical assets, including planes and a yacht, along with other companies associated with him. 

"Yevgeniy Prigozhin has an international network of supporters to spread his malign political and economic influence around the globe," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday. "The United States will continue to target the ability of Prigozhin to conduct operations globally." 

The Treasury Department also sanctioned Okeanos, a Russian-based underwater technology company; Finland-based group Optima Freight OY, a freight forwarding company; three groups associated with Optima Freight OY; and five employees of the companies for efforts to evade U.S. sanctions against Russia and for working with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). 

"Nikita Kovalevskij, and his company, Optima Freight, through an illicit scheme, violated U.S. export laws in the acquisition of sensitive, controlled U.S. maritime technologies," Stacey Moy, special agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office's  Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement. "The FBI remains committed to aggressively investigate and stop Russia from covertly pilfering U.S. innovation." 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced the sanctions, detailing Prigozhin's connections to the Internet Research Agency. 

"This action builds on the U.S. government's efforts to promote accountability for the Russian government's use of proxy actors and intelligence organizations, including the FSB, for perpetrating an array of destabilizing activities, such as conducting malicious cyber activities and interfering in elections, by further targeting networks supporting their activities," Pompeo said in a statement.

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