After Months of Arguments, President Trump Sanctions Russia for 2016 Election Interference & Cyberattacks

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Mar 15, 2018
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The Trump administration has hit Russia with sanctions for its interference in 2016 US Presidential election. Thursday’s announcement from the US government claimed that Russia has sought to disrupt the Western governments. While the new administration has time and again denied any allegations of collusion, President Trump did sign on a new Russian sanctions bill that was passed by the Congress last year.

The US government has imposed these sanctions against Russia’s top spy agencies, the Internet Research Agency (aka the Internet’s biggest troll farm) and over a dozen individuals for trying to influence the 2016 US presidential election and several other malicious activities in the cyberspace. These individuals also include those who were indicted last month by the special counsel Robert Mueller.

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The announcement comes after months of arguments and scandals with some in Washington questioning Trump’s willingness to confront the Kremlin even after being presented with the evidence. Today’s sanctions follow those levied by the UK government yesterday (as a confrontation to a non-cyberattack related incident where Russia is being accused of attempting to kill a Russian-born British informant with a nerve agent).

Trump administration’s sanctions against Russia

The US government has announced fresh sanctions to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, cyberattacks against Ukraine and other countries, and hacks on the US energy grid, according to the FT. These sanctions target five entities, including the FSB, Russia’s top spy service; GRU, the military intelligence agency; and 13 people recently indicted by Mueller, who’s handling a highly publicized investigation into Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election. These individuals include those who are behind a NotPetya cyberattack and another “ongoing” malware attack on a US energy grid that could sabotage the systems.

Sanctions have also been imposed on “trolls” and the Russian organization that supported these troll farms to polarize American voters on various hot topics in an effort to influence the election results. Several of these agencies and individuals already face travel bans and asset freezes that were ordered by the Obama administration in retaliation of Moscow’s actions.

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“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press release (emphasis is ours).

“These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia. Treasury intends to impose additional 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.”

Today’s announcement is in contrast to President Trump’s reluctance to blame the Kremlin for its interference in the 2016 presidential election. These actions are the administration’s most significant actions against Russia that follow the warnings by the NSA and US Cyber Command that believe if the US doesn’t respond to these brazen actions by the Kremlin, Russia will only continue its malicious attacks against the country.

All the top US intelligence agencies and independent security firms had concluded that Moscow indeed tried to sway the results of the 2016 race and have attributed several other devastating cyberattacks to the Russian sponsored hackers. “We’re going to increase pressure until they change their behaviour and become a responsible member of the international community,” a senior US national security official said.

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