The United States has imposed sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five groups, including Moscow's intelligence services, for malicious cyber attacks and meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, the Treasury Department said yesterday.
"Treasury intends to impose additional CAATSA sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the US financial system".
'These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russian Federation'.
The measures are being described in Washington as the strongest action taken by the Donald Trump's administration thus far against Moscow.
The U.S. accusations and accompanying sanctions mark a stepped-up attempt by Trump's administration to show it's adequately confronting Russian Federation over hacking, election meddling and general efforts to compromise Western democracies and infrastructure.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced the sanctions amid withering criticism in the U.S. accusing Trump and his administration of failing to use its congressionally mandated authority to punish Russian Federation.
The sanctions also included financial curbs on Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian caterer who is close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The Trump administration is accusing Russian Federation of a new and ongoing operation to penetrate the USA energy grid. They freeze U.S. assets of the targeted individuals and companies, and prevent U.S. residents from doing business with those individuals and companies.
A White House National Security Council spokesman did not respond when asked what specifically prompted the public blaming of Russian Federation.
In addition to those included in Mueller's indictments, sanctions were slapped on two Russian intelligence agencies, the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate, as well as some of their employees. They came as the United States joined European allies in blaming Russian Federation for a nerve agent attack in Britain, deeming the action a "clear violation" of global law.
According to the Treasury Department, destructive Russian cyber actors attacked the US energy sector, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors.
The sanctions not only freeze the accounts and holdings of the group, but also blocks United States citizens from doing any business with them. The U.S. government has helped the industries expel the Russians from all systems known to have been penetrated, but additional breaches could be discovered, said the officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security information.
A senior administration official said there was some feeling that the goodwill that Trump extended toward Russia when he took over has not been reciprocated and that the Russians do not want to have good relations with the United States.
The United States on Thursday announced more sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 USA election and "malicious" cyber attacks, as the row between the West and Moscow has been escalating over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain. "So, President Trump, are you going to get smart about the threat Russian Federation poses to the United States and our allies?"
Many cyber security experts and former US officials say such behavior is generally espionage-oriented with the potential, if needed, for sabotage.
The Russian agency "tampered with, altered or caused a misappropriation of information with the goal or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions", specifically the 2016 USA presidential race, the US said.
"The recent use of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder two United Kingdom citizens further demonstrates the reckless and irresponsible conduct of its government", the Treasury said.
Sixteen of the 24 entities or individuals sanctioned on Thursday were subject to that special counsel indictment.
The sanctions "have no bite", said Michael Carpenter, a former Pentagon and White House official who worked on Russian Federation policy.