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Trump-Russia collusion investigations

US sanctions Russians for election meddling and says Russia tried to hack its energy grid 

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 12:54am

America on Thursday placed financial sanctions against two Russian intelligence agencies and various Russian citizens and businesses, and separately accused Moscow of trying to hack into its energy grid.

US national security officials said the Federal Bureau of Intelligence, the Homeland Security Department and American intelligence agencies determined that Russian intelligence and others were behind the attacks on the energy sector.

That announcement came at the same time as the US Treasury levied major financial sanctions against a series of Russian people and organisations accused of meddling in the 2016 election. 

US officials said that in the attacks on US energy grids, Russian hackers tried to gain intelligence on vital infrastructure.

Russian hackers deliberately chose US energy industry targets, obtaining access to computer systems and then conducting “network reconnaissance” of industrial control systems that run American factories and the electricity grid, the officials said.

The US government has helped energy businesses kick out the Russians from all systems currently known to have been penetrated, according to the officials.

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The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security information, left open the possibility of discovering more breaches, and said the federal government was issuing an alert to the energy industry to raise awareness about the threat and improve preparation.

In a separate action, the Treasury placed numerous financial sanctions on Russian individuals and organisations.

The sanctions cover two major Russian intelligence agencies along with a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” and other Russian citizens and businesses indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of meddling with the 2016 US presidential election.

The penalties listed on the Treasury Department’s website follow the February indictment and more than a year of criticism from Democrats and some Republican lawmakers that Trump has been too slow to act against Russia for intruding in the election.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin said: “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”

He continued: “Treasury intends to impose additional CAATSA sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilising activities by severing their access to the US financial system.” 

Mueller’s indictment alleged a vast scheme to interfere with the campaign through social media and help US President Donald Trump win.

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Included in the indictment – and the new sanctions – is Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s Chef”, a Russian businessman and restaurateur accused of funding the operation.

As well as the 13 Russians named in Mueller’s indictment, a further six Russians have been sanctioned under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

All six are said by the Treasury to be members of Russian military intelligence organisation Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

It said the organisation “knowingly engages in significant activities that undermine cybersecurity on behalf of the Russian government.” 

“The GRU was directly involved in interfering in the 2016 US election through cyber-enabled activities,” it said. “The Russian military, of which the GRU is a part, was also directly responsible for the NotPetya cyberattack in 2017.”

The Russian rouble fell to a session low in trading after the list was posted.

The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against Russia’s Federal Security Service, a spy organisation know as the FSB, and its Main Intelligence Directorate, a military intelligence service known as the GRU. 

The sanctions in full

The following is the sanction information released by the US Treasury on its website, including the accusations placed against each person or organisation.

E.O. 13694 SANCTIONS

Today’s action includes the designation of three entities and 13 individuals pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended, which targets malicious cyber actors, including those involved in interfering with election processes or institutions. 

The Internet Research Agency LLC (IRA) tampered with, altered, or caused a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions. Specifically, the IRA tampered with or altered information in order to interfere with the 2016 US election. The IRA created and managed a vast number of fake online personas that posed as legitimate US persons to include grass roots organisations, interest groups, and a state political party on social media. Through this activity, the IRA posted thousands of ads that reached millions of people online. The IRA also organised and coordinated political rallies during the run-up to the 2016 election, all while hiding its Russian identity. Further, the IRA unlawfully utilised personally identifiable information from US persons to open financial accounts to help fund IRA operations. 

Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin (Prigozhin) provided material assistance to the IRA. Specifically, Prigozhin funded the operations of the IRA. OFAC previously designated Prigozhin under E.O. 13661, “Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine,” on December 20, 2016.

Concord Management and Consulting LLC provided material assistance to the IRA. Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which is controlled by Prigozhin, provided funding to the IRA. Concord Management and Consulting LLC was previously designated under E.O. 13661 on June 20, 2017.

Concord Catering provided material assistance to the IRA. Concord Catering, which is controlled by Prigozhin, provided funding to the IRA. OFAC previously designated Concord Catering under E.O. 13661 on June 20, 2017.

Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov (Aslanov) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Aslanov acted as the head of the translator project, a department which focused on the United States and conducted operations on multiple social media platforms. He also oversaw many of the operations that targeted the 2016 US election. 

Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva (Bogacheva) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Bogacheva worked for the IRA from at least April 2014 to July 2014. She worked on the translator project.

Maria Anatolyevna Bovda (Bovda) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Bovda worked for the IRA from at least November 2013 to October 2014. She served as the head of the translator project and held other positions within the firm. 

Robert Sergeyevich Bovda (Bovda) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Bovda worked for the IRA from at least November 2013 to October 2014. He served as the deputy head of the translator project and held other positions within the firm.

Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik (Burchik) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Burchik acted as the executive director of the IRA and held the firm’s second-highest ranking position. He was involved in operational planning, infrastructure, and personnel throughout the firm’s operations to interfere in the US political system. 

Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov (Bystrov) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Bystrov acted as the general director of the IRA and served as the head of other entities used by the firm to mask its operations. 

Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina (Kaverzina) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Kaverzina worked for the translator project and operated multiple US personas that she used to post, monitor, and update social media content for the IRA.

Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova (Krylova) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Krylova worked for the IRA from at least September 2013 to November 2014, where she served as a director and was the firm’s third-highest ranking position.

Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev (Podkopaev) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Podkopaev was responsible for conducting US-focused research and drafting social media content for the IRA.

Sergey Pavlovich Polozov (Polozov) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Polozov acted as the manager of the IRA’s information technology department and oversaw the procurement of US servers and other computer infrastructure that masked the firm’s location when conducting operations within the United States. 

Gleb Igorevich Vasilchenko (Vasilchenko) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Vasilchenko worked for the IRA from at least August 2014 to September 2016, and was responsible for controlling social media content and posing as US persons or US grass roots organisations. 

Vladimir Venkov (Venkov) acted for or on behalf of and provided material and technological support to the IRA. Venkov worked for the translator project and operated multiple US personas that were used to post, monitor, and update social media content for the IRA.

These entities and individuals are subjects of an indictment announced on February 16, 2018. 

 

CAATSA SANCTIONS

Today’s action also includes the designation of two entities and six individuals pursuant to section 224 of CAATSA, which targets cyber actors operating on behalf of the Russian government.

Federal Security Service (FSB), a Russian intelligence organisation, knowingly engages in significant activities that undermine cybersecurity on behalf of the Russian government. Specifically, the FSB has utilised its cyber tools to target Russian journalists and politicians critical of the Russian government; Russian citizens and government officials; former officials from countries bordering Russia; and US government officials, including cybersecurity, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel. Additionally, in 2017, the US Department of Justice indicted two FSB officers for their involvement in the 2014 hacking of Yahoo that compromised millions of Yahoo accounts. OFAC previously sanctioned the FSB under E.O. 13694, as amended, on December 28, 2016.

Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a Russian military intelligence organisation, knowingly engages in significant activities that undermine cybersecurity on behalf of the Russian government. The GRU was directly involved in interfering in the 2016 US election through cyber-enabled activities. The Russian military, of which the GRU is a part, was also directly responsible for the NotPetya cyberattack in 2017. OFAC previously sanctioned the GRU under E.O. 13694, as amended, on December 28, 2016.

Sergei Afanasyev (Afanasyev) acts for or on behalf of the GRU. As of February 2017, Afanasyev was a senior GRU official.

Vladimir Alexseyev (Alexseyev) acts for or on behalf of the GRU. As of December 2016, Alexseyev was a First Deputy Chief of the GRU. OFAC previously sanctioned Alexseyev under E.O. 13694, as amended, on December 28, 2016.

Sergey Gizunov (Gizunov) acts for or on behalf of the GRU. As of July 2017, Gizunov was the Deputy Chief of the GRU. OFAC previously sanctioned Gizunov under E.O. 13694, as amended, on December 28, 2016.

Igor Korobov (Korobov) acts for or on behalf of the GRU. As of January 2018, Korobov was the Chief of the GRU. OFAC previously sanctioned Korobov under E.O. 13694, as amended, on December 28, 2016.

Igor Kostyukov (Kostyukov) acts for or on behalf of the GRU. As of December 2016, Kostukov was a First Deputy Chief of the GRU. OFAC previously sanctioned Kostyukov under E.O. 13694, as amended, on December 28, 2016.

Grigoriy Molchanov (Molchanov) acts for or on behalf of the GRU. As of April 2016, Molchanov was a senior GRU official.