United States hits Russian Federation with sanctions for election meddling

Russian billionaires are benefiting from higher commodity prices and a rebound in Russian equity markets

Russian billionaires are benefiting from higher commodity prices and a rebound in Russian equity markets

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday the Trump administration "is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure".

The charges were brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel who has been investigating Russian election meddling, which included looking at alleged Trump campaign links to Russia.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the department's enforcement arm, said the sanctions counter "destabilizing activities" by Russian Federation - which include interfering in the USA vote and spearheading last year's "NotPetya" cyberattacks.

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 Mr Trump said "it certainly looks like the Russians were behind" the incident.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Vladimir Putin's government will need to "decide if they want to be a good actor or a bad actor". At the same time, she left open the possibility of better U.S. -Russia cooperation, arguing that "if we can work together to combat world threats on things like North Korea, then we should".

Among the 19 individuals sanctioned is a businessman with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

Now he's used information gleaned from the Mueller investigation to impose these sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has faced fierce criticism in the US for doing too little to punish Russian Federation for the election meddling and other actions.

The US State Department made a brief statement referring to Russian "nefarious" activity.

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency that Moscow was preparing retaliatory measures against Washington.

The 5 entities targeted include intelligence agencies and a Russian firm accused of mass trolling Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The GRU was directly involved in interfering in the 2016 USA election through cyber activities, the Treasury Department said.

Challenging Mr. Putin may require tougher steps after Sunday's election is past, Russian Federation watchers say. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggested the Trump administration had timed the action to taint this weekend's presidential election in Russian Federation, in which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win an overwhelming victory.

"Even more must be done", said Republican Sen.

"Specifically, the FSB has utilized its cyber tools to target Russian journalists and politicians critical of the Russian government; Russian citizens and government officials; former officials from countries bordering Russia; and United States government officials, including cyber security, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel". "So, President Trump, are you going to get smart about the threat Russian Federation poses to the United States and our allies?"

The sanctions and support for Britain represent another plunge in US-Russian relations, despite Mr Trump's stated desire for improved ties.

But Mr Mnuchin was unequivocal in saying that Thursday's Treasury action "counters Russia's continuing destabilising activities, ranging from interference in the 2016 election to conducting destructive cyber-attacks".

Russian government cyber actors also targeted a broad range of USA government agencies and critical infrastructure industries, including "energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors".

Senior administration security officials said more sanctions are on the way and denied the response had been tardy.

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