Trump administration hits Russian Federation with new sanctions for election meddling, cyber attacks

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Russian Federation has denied USA intelligence agencies' conclusion that it meddled in the election and Trump has said there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow officials.

The United States has imposed sanctions against Russian entities for the NotPetya ransomware outbreak, cyber-attacks on the USA power grid, and their attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election process.

"These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia", Mnuchin said in a statement.

Congressional committees also have been investigating Russian Federation and the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

"I have long argued Vladimir Putin is not and has never been Americas friend", said Sen.

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The Internet Research Agency and 13 individuals connected to it are being sanctioned for using fake identities online as well as posting thousands of online ads in an effort to sow confusion among U.S. voters.

"It is tied to US internal disorder, tied of course to our electoral calendar", Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the Russian state news agency Tass.

Also blacklisted is the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which is accused of engineering an online disinformation campaign to sway the 2016 USA presidential election. US companies, including shipping giant FedEx and the pharmaceutical firm Merck, also were affected, losing hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings.

They also include efforts to target critical infrastructure including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors, officials said. Mnuchin said his department intends to impose additional sanctions to hold Russian officials and oligarchs "accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the USA financial system". The operation is said to have resorted to various methods - including a kind of cyberattack known as spear-phishing - to try to compromise legitimate user accounts, gather user credentials, and target industrial control systems and their networks. The sanctions are the first use of the new powers that Congress passed past year to punish Moscow for meddling in an election that Trump won over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In addition to the company's record production, the White House and the Trump campaign combined have provided more than a million pages of documents to Mueller's investigators.

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The sanctions come about a month and a half after the Trump administration announced it would not impose the sanctions on Russian Federation that Congress had overwhelmingly passed in 2017, arguing that the "the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent".

The sanctions freeze any assets of the Russian agents held in USA dollars, and block US citizens from engaging in business with them. It also said they were directly responsible for the NotPetya cyberattack, which caused billions of dollars in damages across Europe in June.

They include 13 individuals charged last month by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The department said Thursday it was imposing the sanctions as retaliation for a number of shenanigans, including the NotPetya malware outbreak and meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Among those penalized was Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as Russian President Vladimir Putin's "chef" and who ran the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, and 12 of the agency's employees.

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"The IRA created and managed a vast number of fake online personas that posed as legitimate USA persons to include grass-roots organizations, interest groups and a state political party on social media", the Treasury Department statement said. That was in sharp contrast to Mr Trump's White House comments on Thursday in response to a question about Russian activities, saying the United Kingdom nerve agent attack "looks like the Russians are behind it" and that he takes it "very seriously" - while declining to discuss the new sanctions at all. The IRA itself is also on the sanctions list, as is Russia's main intelligence agency and several individuals who work there.

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