US law makers have unveiled the country’s toughest sanctions yet on Russia for activities ranging from meddling in the US election to cyber attacks linked to Russia’s military.
The sanctions targeting 19 individuals and five entities, including Russia’s intelligence agency, were announced under the new Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, marking the first time the act has been used against Russia.
The US Treasury said in a statement:
Russia’s continuing destabilising activities, ranging from interference in the 2016 U.S. election to conducting destructive cyber-attacks, including the NotPetya attack, a cyber-attack attributed to the Russian military on February 15, 2018.
At least 12 of named on the list were also named in the Mueller investigation into Moscow’s alleged interference on the last US election and possible collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team.
Also on the list are two operatives of the GRU (the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces), according to the sanctions circulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury.
Measures will also be taken against the Internet Research Agency — a so-called troll factory — whose staff are accused by the US Department of Justice of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
The cyber attack, which targeted Ukraine, crippling parts of its infrastructure, before infecting computers around the world in June 2017 and disrupted shipping, and US hospital systems, was described as “the most destructive and costly cyber-attack in history”, resulting “in billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia, and the US”.
It also “significantly disrupted global shipping, trade, and the production of medicines” and several hospitals in the US “were unable to create electronic records for more than a week”, according to the statement.
Russia responded that it is working on its own set of retaliatory measures against the US, the country’s deputy foreign minister said yesterday.
Sergei Ryabkov said:
I believe further demonstrative, tough actions (on the part of the US) are possible. We are ready for them.
He said the new set of sanctions were “nothing new” in terms of Washington’s foreign policy to Russia.
Meanwhile, the country is facing mounting pressure to respond to accusations it was involved in the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal on British soil.
Speaking at an event in Moscow on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would “definitely” expel UK diplomats “soon” according to state owned news agency RIA Novosti.
According to the Tass news agency Lavrov said he hopes Skripal will recover soon so he could shed light on events.
Lavrov added that a possible motive for the attack was an attempt to jeopardise Russia’s hosting of Fifa’s World Cup this summer.
The UK’s leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn revealed his own theory on the mystery on Friday morning, suggesting Russian mafia groups were behind the attack.
He lambasted UK prime minister Theresa May’s government for “rushing ahead to judgement” over who carried out the poisoning.
Yesterday, leaders of France, Germany, the US and UK issued a joint statement on the attack, branding the use of a nerve agent on British soil “an assault on UK sovereignty” and “the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War”.