The U.S. Department of the Treasury increased its sanctions on the financier of the Russian agency responsible for interference in the 2018 midterm elections as part of a larger sanctions package targeting six other Russians.
In a press release Sept. 30, the Treasury Department announced it was ramping up sanctions against Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the financier behind the Internet Research Agency, a Russian entity known for its work spreading misinformation via fake social media profiles. The tighter sanctions target several private jets and a yacht owned by Prigozhin, who has been sanctioned by the United States in the past.
Prigozhin is being sanctioned for “materially assisting and providing financial support” for interference activities.
"Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy, and we will use our authorities against anyone seeking to undermine our processes and subversively influence voters,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. “This administration will work tirelessly to safeguard our electoral process, and will aggressively pursue any other foreign actor that attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections.”
The sanctions also target six members of the Internet Research Agency, identifying them as having tried to interfere in the U.S. midterms last year. Four of the members had previously been sanctioned.
“While today’s action only targets Russian actors, the U.S. government is safeguarding our democratic processes from adversaries — primarily Russia, Iran and China — that may be seeking to influence the upcoming 2020 elections,” Treasury wrote.
As a result of the sanctions, all U.S. residents are barred from possessing or engaging in transactions with the identified assets. The sanctions are also a warning to people providing landing rights to the yachts and planes, Treasury wrote.
“By continuing to service these aircraft and the vessel, providers of such services run the risk of facilitating or supporting Prigozhin’s nefarious activities and may also be subject to future sanctions,” Treasury warned.
The Internet Research Agency was also sanctioned by the department for its election interference efforts in 2018. According to Treasury, the agency conducted a “variety of activities" to influence the election. The department cited an October 2018 video from an employee that explicitly said it was trying to interfere in the election. In November 2018, the Russian entity posted a statement on its site that said it was seeking to “discredit” U.S. candidates that held hostile views toward Russia.
Treasury also reasserted that adversaries did not keep anyone from voting, change vote counts, or disrupt vote counts.
This round of sanctions is the first under an executive order by President Donald Trump that cautioned that countries who interfered in U.S. elections could face sanctions, Treasury wrote.