The U.S. has sanctioned several Russian nationals, a Ukrainian lawmaker, and their cryptocurrency addresses for interfering with the country’s electoral process. The Russians are allegedly employees of a troll factory that previously targeted presidential candidates.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced Thursday that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has “designated four Russia-linked individuals for attempting to influence the U.S. electoral process.”
The Treasury alleges that “Russia uses a variety of proxies to attempt to sow discord between political parties and drive internal divisions to influence voters” with the aim to “undermine democratic countries and institutions.” The announcement explains that in the U.S., “Russia has used a wide range of influence methods and actors to target our electoral process, including targeting U.S. presidential candidates.”
Three of the four people designated — Russian nationals Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev, and Darya Aslanova — are employees of the Russian troll factory known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the announcement notes, adding:
They supported the IRA’s cryptocurrency accounts. The IRA uses cryptocurrency to fund activities in furtherance of their ongoing malign influence operations around the world.
The Treasury Department has previously designated the troll factory and its Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin. The latter was designated for “providing material support to the IRA’s influence activities against the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.”
Lifshits was also separately charged by federal prosecutors Thursday. He allegedly serves “as a manager in ‘Project Lakhta,’ a Russia-based effort to engage in political and electoral interference operations,” according to the announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The Justice Department explained that since 2014, “Project Lakhta has sought to obscure its conduct by operating through a number of entities,” including the IRA. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers described:
Artem Lifshits, conspired with others to steal Americans’ identities and use them to open fraudulent bank and cryptocurrency accounts.
Prosecutors say, “Lifshits and the conspirators allegedly used these fraudulently opened accounts to both promote Project Lakhta’s influence operations and for personal enrichment.”
The fourth person sanctioned on Thursday was Andrii Derkach, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament who has been an active Russian agent for over a decade and has retained close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services, the Treasury Department alleges. According to reports, he ran a campaign against former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claims that Derkach, and “other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”
The Treasury Department’s announcement continues:
As a result of today’s designations, all property and interests in property of these targets that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked.
The Treasury Department also updated its OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN) with details of the four individuals named above and their cryptocurrency addresses. Furthermore, “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” the announcement emphasizes, declaring that “Additionally, any entities 50 percent or more owned by one or more designated persons are also blocked.”
According to reports, Russia has refuted the claims that it attempts to interfere in the U.S. elections. Meanwhile, Microsoft has reportedly identified hackers linked to foreign countries, such as Russia, China, and Iran, attempting to infiltrate both President Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s campaign camps.