Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference

Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference
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The Treasury Department on Monday announced sanctions aimed at disrupting a Russia-linked influence network associated with Andrii Derkach, a marginalized Ukrainian politician with close ties to President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThree Democrats call for investigation into Sidney Powell to move 'swiftly' Fox News bans Rudy Giuliani from appearing: report Alabama official dismisses Lindell claim that 100K votes were flipped from Trump to Biden: 'It's not possible' MORE

Derkach was identified by U.S. intelligence services in August as being part of a Russian-backed operation to smear and discredit President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE and the Democratic Party during the 2020 presidential campaign, and was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in September.

Giuliani, Trump’s top operator in efforts to overturn the election, had met with Derkach in December 2019 to discuss investigating the Biden family and the two appeared together on the pro-Trump news channel One America News Network, where they pushed debunked theories of corruption involving Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 

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The sanctions announced Monday target seven individuals and four entities related to Derkach’s inner circle. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRepublican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability MORE said in a statement that they are blacklisted for repeating “malicious narratives that U.S. Government officials have engaged in corrupt dealings in Ukraine.”

“Derkach, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, has been an active Russian agent for more than a decade, maintaining close connections with Russian intelligence services,” Pompeo said in a statement. 

Derkach, a Ukrainian politician who studied at a Moscow school for Russia's internal security agency the KGB, released in May a series of edited and misleading tapes of phone conversations between Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Derkach claimed the tapes showed evidence of corruption by Biden when he was serving as vice president in the Obama administration.

The seven individuals identified by the Treasury Department on Monday are sanctioned in part for their role in the propagation, release and support of the tampered tapes.

This includes former Ukrainian politician Oleksandr Onyshchenko, who is a fugitive from Ukraine on charges of corruption and is in exile in Europe. He was sanctioned for providing the edited audio tapes.

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Ukraine Member of Parliament Oleksandr Dubinsky was sanctioned for his involvement in the May press conference. Treasury said his involvement was “designed to perpetuate these and other false narratives and denigrate U.S. presidential candidates and their families.”

Other blacklisted individuals include Konstantin Kulyk, a former prosecutor for the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, who the Treasury Department said formed an alliance with Derkach to “spread false accusations of international corruption.” 

Another sanctioned former Ukrainian official, Andriy Telizhenko, is blacklisted for his involvement orchestrating meetings between Derkach and “U.S. persons” aimed at propagating “false claims concerning corruption in Ukraine.”

Telizhenko is described as a “former low-level Ukrainian diplomat.”

Three other individuals, Petro Zhuravel, Dmytro Kovalchuk and Anton Simonenko, are sanctioned “for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Derkach.” 

The Treasury Department further said it was sanctioning four entities as a “disinformation apparatus” that supported Derkach. These include four media companies the government says are front companies in Ukraine that disseminate false narratives at the behest of Derkach and his associates: NabuLeaks, Era-Media, Only News and Skeptik TOV. 

“Russian disinformation campaigns targeting American citizens are a threat to our democracy,” Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS MORE said in a statement. “The United States will continue to aggressively defend the integrity of our election systems and processes.”

Trump has sought to downplay Russia’s malign activity against the U.S. in general and the Kremlin’s involvement in election interference in particular, despite assertions of Russian responsibility from top officials like Pompeo and the intelligence community.  

Trump in an April 2019 phone call pushed for the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into allegations of corruption against Biden, his son and business dealings in Ukraine, and assigned Giuliani as the main point of contact for investigating the issue. 

The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on two articles in December 2019, for abusing power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructing Congress in their investigation of those actions. The Senate acquitted the president of the charges in February following a trial.