The United States on Thursday sanctioned four Russian-linked operatives, accusing them of trying to meddle in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
The sanctioned individuals are Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian member of Parliament tied to Russian intelligence, and three other Russian-based operatives connected to the Internet Research Agency troll farm based in St. Petersburg.
The sanctions come even as U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his top intelligence officials have insisted that China, not Russia, represents the biggest threat to the November 3 vote.
But in a statement Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department singled out Derkach, calling him “an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.”
The assessments echo warnings put out last month by the nation’s top counterintelligence official that Derkach was actively working to undermine the campaign of the Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Derkach met with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine in December, as Giuliani attempted to collect derogatory information on Biden's and his son Hunter’s business relationships in Ukraine.
He becomes the second person to be sanctioned under Trump’s September 2018 executive order, aimed at pushing back against foreign interference in U.S. elections.
The only other person to be sanctioned under that executive order is Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who has been described as the financier of Russia’s IRA.
U.S. officials say the other three Russians sanctioned Thursday — Anton Andreyev, Darya Aslanova and Artem Lifshits — were all employees of the Russian troll factory. Additionally, the Justice Department identified one of them, Lifshits, as a manager of IRA’s “Project Lakhta,” previously described by U.S. officials as a Russian influence operation that has been active since 2014.
The Justice Department charged Lifshits, 27, of conspiring to use the stolen identities of Americans to open fraudulent accounts at banking and cryptocurrency exchanges.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday, “Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system.”
The U.S. sanctions block U.S. financial and property interests of the four individuals, and Americans are prohibited from conducting any business transactions with them.