U.S. Treasury issues sanctions on Russians over 2018 election interference

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Monday that the private yacht St. Vitamin of Internet Research Agency financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin's is one of the targeted assets in sanctions for attempted U.S. election interference in the 2018 midterms. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Treasury

Sept. 30 (UPI) — The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions Monday tied to a Russian attempt to interfere in the 2018 U.S. elections.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets imposed the sanctions on seven Russian individuals involved with the Internet Research Agency’s attempted 2018 U.S. elections breach. There was no indication the attempt was successful in compromising election infrastructure, preventing voting or changing vote counts.

The Internet Research Agency spread false information on social media in an “attempt to influence the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and try to undermine faith in U.S. democratic institutions,” the Treasury said in a statement. The Treasury Department is imposing sanctions on six of its employees, including Dzheykhun Nasimi Aslanov; Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik; Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev; Vladimir Dmitriyevich Venkov; Igor Vladimorovich Nesterov; and Denis Igorevich Kuzmin.

Sanctions also target assets of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, Internet Research Agency financier, including his three private jets and yacht, and some entities he used as front companies to manage assets.

His private jets owners are among entities sanctioned, including Beratex Group Limited, owner of a private jet that recently flew under the tail number M-VITO; Linburg Industries, owner of VP-CSP private jet registered in the Cayman Islands; and Autolex Transport, owner of private jet M-Sann registered in the Isle of Man.

Beratex is also the registered owner of Prigozhin’s private yacht St. Vitamin, which it acquired in 2014.

Prigozhin has been dubbed “Putin’s chef,” by Russian media after his company catered multiple events for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Internet Research Agency also launched a sustained disinformation campaign “designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States,” ahead of the 2016 elections, former special counsel Robert Mueller found.

President Donald Trump declared Executive Order 13848 last year, which allows sanctions in the event of foreign interference in a U.S. election.

The Internet Research Agency, seven Russian individuals, assets, and entities were designated for sanctions Monday under this order “for directly or indirectly engaging in, sponsoring, concealing, or otherwise being complicit in foreign interference in a U.S. election,” the Treasury statement said.

The sanctions mark the first time the sanction authority granted by E.O. 13848 has been used.

Prighozhin, the Internet Research Agency, and four of its employees, Aslanov, Burchik, Pokkopaev, and Venkov, were also sanctioned in March 2018 under Executive Order 13694, which blocks the property of individuals involved in “significant malicious cyber-enabled activities.”

The Treasury noted that Monday’s sanctions not only target “Russian actors,” but also help to safeguard U.S. elections from other adversaries, such as Iran and China.

“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy, and we will use our authorities against anyone seeking to undermine our processes and subversively influence voters,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said. “This Administration will work tirelessly to safeguard our electoral process, and will aggressively pursue any other foreign actor that attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections.”


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