US hits Russians with new sanctions

By , 25/04/2020 19:36

The Trump administration has hit Russians with sanctions over election meddling and cyber attacks.The United States has slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for US election meddling and cyber attacks but put off targeting oligarchs and government officials close to President Vladimir Putin, prompting lawmakers in both parties to say President Donald Trump needs to do much more.

With the US under pressure to act, the actions announced by the US Treasury Department, targeting 19 individuals and five entities including Russian intelligence services, represented the most significant steps taken against Moscow since Trump assumed office in January 2017.

The US also joined Britain, Germany and France in demanding that Russia explain a military-grade nerve toxin attack in England on a former Russian double agent, and Trump said “it certainly looks like the Russians were behind” the incident.

But congressional critics called the administration’s action a woefully inadequate retaliation for Russia interference in the 2016 US election and cyber attacks stretching back two years that targeted the US power grid including nuclear facilities.

“The sanctions today are a grievous disappointment and fall far short of what is needed to respond to that attack on our democracy let alone deter Russia’s escalating aggression, which now includes a chemical weapons attack on the soil of our closest ally,” said Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

“Today’s action, using authorities provided by congress, is an important step by the administration. But more must be done,” Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce added.

Trump has faced fierce criticism in the US for doing too little to punish Russia for the election meddling and other actions, and special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians, an allegation the president denies.

Sixteen of the Russian individuals and entities sanctioned were indicted on February 16 as part of Mueller’s criminal investigation.

“They didn’t hit Putin’s power structure and they didn’t team up with Europe,” Brian O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank and a former senior adviser at the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said of the administration’s actions.

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia was preparing retaliatory measures, as US-Russian relations plunged again despite Trump’s stated desire for improved ties.

Thursday’s announcement also marked the first time that the US government stated publicly that Russia had attempted to break into the American energy grid.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions were also meant to counter destructive cyber attacks including the NotPetya attack that cost billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia and the US. America and Britain last month blamed the Russian military for that attack.

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