US sanctions Russia for election interference, SolarWinds hack, and Crimea

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The Biden administration imposes new economic sanctions on Russia for election interference, the occupation of Crimea, and the SolarWinds hack, which has been called the largest and most aggressive cyberattack “the world has ever seen.”

The hack was initially believed to be part of an intelligence gathering operation. New intelligence suggests the intrusion also provided Russia with a pathway for “far more destructive action” inside the 16,000 companies and government agencies that were breached.

In December, Trump fought back against his own administration’s reports of Russia’s involvement by pointing the finger at China and the “Fake News Media.” Today, US government agencies including the NSA, FBI, and CISA acknowledge that the hack came from Russia’s SVR, one of the country’s intelligence agencies that takes orders from Vladimir Putin directly.

The new sanctions are not immediately detrimental to Russia’s influence in the global economy, but they leave open a door for that level of action if the country continues to escalate tensions and conflict with the US or our allies, particularly in Ukraine.

My bottom line is this: where it is in the interest of the United States to work with Russia, we should and we will. If Russia seeks to violate the interests of the United States, we will respond. We will always stand in defense of our country, our institutions, our people and our allies… We cannot allow a foreign power to interfere in our democratic process with impunity.

President Joseph R. Biden

The administration’s announcement includes (1) sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and interference in the 2020 election, including four news agencies controlled by Russian intelligence that propel disinformation to English audiences; (2) sanctions on eight entities and individuals for Russia’s occupation of Crimea, the peninsula internationally recognized as part of Ukraine; (3) bans stopping American banks from purchasing Russian government debt, potentially threatening Russia’s access to international finance; (4) the removal of ten diplomats from the Russian embassy in DC, most of them identified as Russian intelligence operatives; and (5) the identification of six Russian companies that provide support to Russia’s cyber influence activities.

Among the most interesting targets was a company called Positive Technologies, a Moscow-based firm that American intelligence officials say provides hacking technologies to Russian intelligence services, part of a shadowy world of contractors who provide Russia with some level of deniability about operations.

The New York Times

The Russian intelligence-controlled disinformation outlets are NewsFront, SouthFront, InfoRos, and the Strategic Culture Foundation, a think tank that operates an online magazine of the same name. One of the leading columnists is conservative journalist and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi.

The State Department has said that the Strategic Culture Foundation is directed by the S.V.R. and that it published “fringe voices and conspiracy theories in English.” The foundation also published articles critical of a former Obama administration official, Evelyn N. Farkas, as she was running for Congress last year. Dr. Farkas had said that work was clear evidence of Russian efforts to interfere in American politics.

The New York Times

The Russian government responds on Friday by barring eight US officials from entering the country. The list includes FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Attorney General Merrick Garland, DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas, Federal Bureau of Prisons Dir. Michael Carvajal, Domestic Policy Council Dir. Susan Rice, Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton, and former CIA head Robert James Woolsey.

Other companies mentioned in the U.S. Treasury’s press releases: ERA Technopolis, Pasit, Federal State Autonomous Scientific Establishment Scientific Research Institute Specialized Security Computing Devices and Automation (SVA), Neobit, Advanced System Technology, Internet Research Agency, Foundation for National Values Protection, USAReally, Association For Free Research And International Cooperation, International Anticrisis Center, Trans Logistik, OOO Yunidzhet, OOO Alkon, Second Eye Solution / Forwarderz, Fresh Air Farm House, Like Wise, MK Softtech, Lenpromtransproyekt, Mostotrest, Stroygazmontazh, and Joint-Stock Company The Berkakit-Tommot-Yakutsk Railway Line’s Construction Directorate.

Other people mentioned: Alexei Gromov, Denis Tyurin, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, Alexander Malkevich, Petr Byschkov, Yulia Afanasyeva, Taras Pribyshin, Artem Stepanov, Maria Zueva, Kirill Shcherbakov, Mohsin Raza, Mujtaba Raza, Syed Hasnain, Muhammad Hayat, Syed Raza, Shahzad Ahmed, Konstantin Kilimnik, Leonid Kronidovich Ryzhenkin, Arkady Rotenberg, Larisa Vitalievna Kulinich, Pavel Karanda, Leonid Mikhailiuk, and Vladimir Terentiev.

External Sources

The New York Times (Archived)

NPR (Archived)

PBS (Archived)

CNN (Archived)

CBS News (Archived)

NBC News (Archived)

U.S. Treasury 1 (Archived)

U.S. Treasury 2 (Archived)

U.S. Treasury 3 (Archived)

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