U.S. announces sweeping sanctions on Russian Federation over cyber hack, election interference

Lula Sharp
April 15, 2021

The Treasury Department sanctioned 32 organizations and individuals for their alleged influence operations aimed at the US election.

The SVR actor is also known by other names such as APT29, Cozy Bear, and The Dukes, with the threat group being tracked under different monikers, including UNC2452 (FireEye), SolarStorm (Palo Alto Unit 42), StellarParticle (CrowdStrike), Dark Halo (Volexity), and Nobelium (Microsoft).

The wider sanctions forbid United States financial institutions from taking part in the market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds, or lending ruble or non-ruble denominated funds to Russia's Central Bank, National Wealth Fund or Ministry of Finance; sanction 32 entities and individuals thought to be involved in attempts to throw the controversial 2020 U.S. presidential election off course, and eight individuals and entities associated with Russia's attacks on Ukraine and continued illegal occupation of Crimea; and expel 10 intelligence operatives from Russia's Washington DC embassy. The breach exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain as well as weaknesses in the federal governments own cyber defenses.

The Biden administration actions against alleged Russian activity come at a tense time in bilateral relations.

President Joe Biden used a new executive order to authorize the actions, which also included a prohibition on US financial firms participating in the "primary" bond market maintained by Russia's Central Bank and other Russian institutions after June 14.

Britain on Thursday said it had summoned the Russian ambassador in the United Kingdom to express its deep concern at what it called Moscow's "pattern of malign activity".

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For its part, Moscow had previously denied involvement in the broad-scope SolarWinds campaign, stating "it does not conduct offensive operations in the cyber domain".

The Kremlin gave an initially positive response to the idea but said Thursday that sanctions would not "help". The AP reports that President Biden has expelled 10 Russian diplomats from Washington, DC, including members of intelligence services, in response to actions that include the SolarWinds hack.

The US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, said that at a "professional and respectful" meeting at the foreign ministry in Moscow he told officials of Washington's intention to hold the government "accountable for its adversarial actions".

Still, some lawmakers expressed skepticism that the Russian hacking had violated any norms.

US officials are weighing whether to take additional action under an executive order to protect the IT supply chain "from further exploitation by Russian Federation", the White House said. "Responsibility for what is happening lies entirely on the U.S".

In addition, Treasury Department targeted Russia's sovereign wealth, prohibiting USA financial institutions from certain dealings with Russian sovereign debt. The Treasury Department, meanwhile, declared that six Russian technology companies were involved in creating the tools to enable "malicious cyber activities". The White House announced that summit proposal earlier this week.

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