The Biden administration imposed a raft of new sanctions against Moscow on Thursday over alleged election interference and cyberattacks.
“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.
In addition to the broad sanctions issued by 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, of being behind the SolarWinds cyberattack publicized late last year, described by cybersecurity experts as one of the largest and most sophisticated hacking operations in history.
“The U.S. Intelligence Community has high confidence in its assessment of attribution,” the Treasury release said. The hack 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 Russia’s President Vladimir Putin authorized attempts to interfere in the 2020 election in former President Donald Trump’s favor.
The dollar was up 1.69% against the rouble at 3 p.m. local time, with the Russian currency trading at 77.0718 to the greenback. Its close on Wednesday against the dollar was 75.7928.
The Biden-Putin call Tuesday, at least the second between the two men since Biden took office in January, comes as the United States and other Western countries grow weary of Russia’s growing military buildup along its border with Ukraine, where it has amassed tens of thousands of troops and tanks.
“We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders since 2014,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday after visiting NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. “That is a deep concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States.”
Regional experts say this move could be an attempt to test Biden’s mettle and intimidate Ukraine; the more pessimistic outlook suggests its aim is to goad Ukraine into renewed conflict.
Biden in the phone call with Putin “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House readout.