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Biden administration slaps new sanctions on Russia for cyberattacks, election

President Joe Biden (L) and President Vladimir Putin.

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The Biden administration imposed a raft of new sanctions against Moscow on Thursday over alleged interference in the 2020 election, a colossal cyberattack against U.S. government and corporate networks, illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea, and human rights abuses.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took sweeping action against 16 entities and 16 individuals who attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government,” the Treasury said in a statement.

It also announced sanctions on five individuals and three entities linked to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and human rights abuses.

In addition to the broad sanctions issued by the Treasury, the State Department announced it will expel 10 officials from Russia’s diplomatic mission in the United States.

The sanctions come following President Joe Biden’s phone call this week with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and as Russian force amass near the Ukraine border.

Washington formally accused Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR — its top spy agency — of being behind the SolarWinds cyberattack publicized late last year, described by Microsoft President Brad Smith as “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.”

“The U.S. Intelligence Community has high confidence in its assessment of attribution,” the Treasury release said. The attack saw hackers gain access to the software used by thousands of government bureaus and companies. 

The penalties are also in response to a March report by the U.S. director of national intelligence that concluded Putin authorized attempts to interfere in the 2020 election in former President Donald Trump‘s favor.

The Russian government denies all of the allegations.

Biden also signed an executive order Thursday that allows Washington to sanction any sector of Moscow’s economy, significantly broadening the scope of sanctions authority.

Under this new authorization, U.S. financial institutions are prohibited from conducting transactions in the primary market for new ruble or non-ruble-denominated bonds issued after June 14.

“When you remove U.S. investors from the primary market, it causes a broader chilling effect,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“What you see is that Russia’s borrowing costs rise, you see that there’s capital flight and you see the currency weakens in tandem. And you know, that has an impact on Russia’s growth rate and it has an impact on Russia’s inflation rate,” the official added.

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

“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,” she added.

One of those named in the new actions is Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian agent with ties to former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort, who was convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The FBI is offering $250,000 for information leading to Kilimnik’s arrest, who is believed to be in Russia. Moscow prohibits the extradition of a Russian national to any country.

Another senior administration official, who declined to be named, said that the White House was still hopeful for a “stable and predictable relationship” with Russia.

“We also want to be clear that we have no desire to be in an…

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