Biden Administration Issues New Sanctions on Russia Over Cyberattacks

  • The Biden administration issued new sanctions against Russia on Thursday. 
  • The sanctions target over 30 Russian entities and expel 10 Russian diplomats from the US.
  • The sanctions also accuse Russia’s foreign intelligence service of being behind the SolarWinds hack.
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The Biden administration on Thursday slapped Russia with a new round of sanctions in retaliation for its efforts to meddle in the 2020 US election and its role in the SolarWinds cyberattack.

The sanctions targeted 16 Russian entities and 16 individuals who sought to interfere in the election “at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government,” and the US also announced that it would expel 10 Russian diplomats.

“The Biden administration has been clear that the United States desires a relationship with Russia that is stable and predictable,” the White House said. “We do not think that we need to continue on a negative trajectory. However, we have also been clear — publicly and privately — that we will defend our national interests and impose costs for Russian Government actions that seek to harm us.”

The Biden administration formally accused the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, of being responsible for the devastating SolarWinds attack, which targeted Orion, a type of network management software developed by SolarWinds and distributed to thousands of clients.

SolarWinds said last year that a nation state was responsible for the hack and estimated that 18,000 Orion customers downloaded a malicious software update containing a backdoor that gave hackers access to their computer systems. At least three state governments and multiple federal agencies were hacked, including the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, the State Department, Commerce Department, Treasury Department, and the agency that manages the US’s nuclear stockpile.

“The SVR’s compromise of the SolarWinds software supply chain gave it the ability to spy on or potentially disrupt more than 16,000 computer systems worldwide,” the White House said. “The scope of this compromise is a national security and public safety concern.”

Thursday’s sanctions came after President Joe Biden spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier in the week.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the sanctions would “serve to reduce Russian resources available to carry out similar malign activities.”

“These actions are intended to hold Russia to account for its reckless actions,” he said in the statement. “We will act firmly in response to Russian actions that cause harm to us or our allies and partners.”

The US also officially designated Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian national with close ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as a “known Russian agent.”

In a press release announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department described Kilimnik as a “Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and known Russian Intelligence Services agent implementing influence operations on their behalf.”

It continued: “Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” a false talking point started and frequently amplified by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

The press release also pointed to Kilimnik’s work for Viktor Yanukovych, the former pro-Russian Ukrainian president and strongman who has close ties to Manafort. “At Yanukovych’s direction, Kilimnik sought to institute a plan that would return Yanukovych to power in Ukraine,” the Treasury said.

The FBI is offering up to $250,000 in exchange for information leading to Kilimnik’s arrest, the press release said.

This article has been updated.

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