The White House on Thursday issued sanctions against Russia for its purported “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election and other cyberattacks, citing the Kremlin’s official intelligence agencies as well as the individuals indicted last month by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The new sanctions show that the Trump Administration is “confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”
The sanctions, which will affect 5 Russian entities and 19 individuals, specifically mention the devastating “NotPetya” cyberattack as well as the recent use of a nerve agent to attack former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal.
Trump has resisted punishing Russia in the past, and these sanctions likely went through in response to Russia’s use of a nerve agent. Trump issued a joint statement with other world leaders condemning the attack. “It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it,” he said Thursday.
The sanctions will also affect Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which Mueller’s indictment claims led an operation to “sow discord in the US political system,” and its leader, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin.
The sanctions are limited in scope and will not affect Russia’s economy. They are primarily symbolic, but “symbolism is important when it comes to sanctions,” explains former Obama official Andrew Keller. “It’s really the first statement of the Trump administration, from a sanctions standpoint, with regard to Russia’s election meddling.”
The sanctions also mark the first use of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which Congress forced Trump into signing last August. Trump signed the bill reluctantly, claiming it could endanger future attempts to improve relations with Russia.