US hit Russia with Sanctions for 2016 Election Interference

The United States on Thursday sanctioned a number of Russian entities for the attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and its general meddling in Western democracies.

Among the five entities sanctioned by the Treasury Department Thursday is the Internet Research Agency, which was indicted by a grand jury last month as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Donald Trump campaign collusion with Russian efforts.

Also cited in the sanctions: the NotPetya cyber-attack, which affected hospitals and disrupted shipping last year, prompting the White House to label it the “most destructive and costly cyber-attack in history.”

It’s the first round of sanctions under a Russia sanctions bill passed by Congress last year and signed by President Trump after a veto-proof congressional majority.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner said the sanctions were long overdue.

“I think this is a good step. It is not fully sufficient,” Warner said.

“What continues to concern to me is that while you had the administration act, there continues to be a reluctance by the president himself to call out Russia as a bad actor.”

The sanctions freeze any assets of the Russian agents held in U.S. dollars, and block U.S. citizens from engaging in business with them.

This comes days after the United States condemned Russia for its use of nerve agent to poison a double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the United Kingdom earlier this month.

Though not yet proven, the attack allegedly had all the fingerprints of a Russian spy operation, especially in its use of a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and banned by an international treaty on chemical weapons.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Thursday, President Trump said “it certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.”

“(It’s) something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others,” Trump said.

This latest round of sanctions increases the pressure on Russia President Vladimir Putin, who has vowed to retaliate after the U.K. expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the attack.

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