US Sanctions Russia for Cyberattacks and Election Interference

Published: 16 April 2021

hat malign behavior included the harassment of journalists and political dissidents. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)Russia's malign behavior included the harassment of journalists and political dissidents. (Photo: W. Bulach, Wikimedia, License)

By David Klein

The U.S. Government imposed new sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2020 U.S. election, cyberattacks and for its occupation and human rights violations in Crimea.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday, blocking assets held in the U.S. or controlled by U.S. companies, which belong to 21 Russian nationals and 25 business or other entities, believed to support the Russian intelligence service.   

Following the order, the U.S. Department of the Treasury punished the “aggressive and harmful activities by the Government of the Russian Federation” by imposing restrictions on lending to designated Russian entities, and sanctioning technology companies supporting Russian Intelligence Services.  

“The President signed this sweeping new authority to confront Russia’s continued and growing malign behavior,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement, released by the Treasury.  

Apart from election interference and the Crimea occupation, that malign behavior included the harassment of journalists and political dissidents, and Russia’s use of cyber attacks and intelligence services to harm the interests of the U.S. and its allies, President Biden’s order said.

“The Russian Intelligence Services — specifically the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) — have executed some of the most dangerous and disruptive cyber attacks in recent history, including the SolarWinds cyber attack.” the Treasury said.

In an attack that has been referred to as “your worst nightmare” the SolarWinds hack compromised the security of Microsoft Office 365’s email service which is popular among federal agencies such as the FBI and DEA, potentially giving Russian intelligence access to the emails of some 100,000 government employees.  

“Treasury is leveraging this new authority to impose costs on the Russian government for its unacceptable conduct, including by limiting Russia’s ability to finance its activities and by targeting Russia’s malicious and disruptive cyber capabilities,” Yellen said.

The sanctions also prohibit U.S. financial institutions from trading in ruble-based bonds, this way supporting Russia’s sovereign debt.