By PETER BAKER
© 2018 New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals Thursday in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential elections and other “malicious” cyberattacks. It was the most significant action taken against Moscow since Trump took office.
The U.S. sanctions announced Thursday targeted many of the same Russian organizations and operatives identified by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, in an indictment that outlined an audacious attempt to spread disinformation and propaganda to disrupt U.S. democracy and, eventually, influence the vote on behalf of Trump. The sanctions also responded to other cyberattacks, including a previously undisclosed attempt to penetrate the U.S. energy grid.
“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyberactivity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”
The sanctions, targeting five Russian organizations and 19 individuals, will generally block them from traveling to the United States, freeze any assets in the country and bar U.S. businesses and individuals from doing business with them. Among the organizations sanctioned were the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB known by its Russian acronym FSB, and Russian military intelligence, known as GRU, although they, like a few others, were previously penalized under past actions for the intervention in Ukraine.
In addition to the election meddling, the attacks cited by the Treasury Department included the NotPetya cyberattack that caused billions of dollars in damage in the United States, Europe and Asia in what the department called “the most destructive and costly cyberattack in history.”
The action came a day after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other measures in response to the poisoning attack but its allies announced no similar efforts.
The statement indicated that the United States and other allies backed Britain’s conclusion about Moscow’s responsibility.