WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday slapped fresh sanctions on a businessman tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as to a disinformation operation accused of conspiring to manipulate the 2018 midterm elections.
The financial sanctions, which target Russian financier Evgeny Prigozhin, some of his assets and the so-called Internet Research Agency, are the first to be taken under an executive order signed last year President Donald Trump seeking to punish foreign actors accused of interfering in US elections.
"Treasury is targeting the private planes, yacht, and associated front companies of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Russian financier behind the Internet Research Agency and its attempts to subvert American democratic processes," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The announcement follows shortly after a Washington Post report said that Trump told senior visiting Russian officials in 2017 he was not concerned by Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election in his favour.
The sanctions announced Monday marked the third time the US had added Prigozhin's name to its list of foreign nationals formally barred from the US financial system, a move which freezes him out of much of the global financial system as well.
US prosecutors last year indicted the Internet Research Agency as well as alleged employees, charging them with a broad conspiracy to influence the 2016 elections by spreading disinformation in the United States via social media.
The Treasury said Monday the IRA had announced its intention to do likewise in the 2018 midterms by seeking to discredit candidates it viewed as hostile to Moscow.
There was no evidence they were successful in preventing voting, altered vote counts or disrupted vote tallying, the Treasury said.
Treasury announced it was also designating six IRA members -- Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov, Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev, Vladimir Dmitriyevich Venkov, Igor Vladimirovich Nesterov and Denis Igorevich Kuzmi -- for acting to interfere in the 2018 elections.
Treasury also announced it was placing sanctions on three aircraft and a yacht belonging to Prigozhin and three entities incorporated in the Seychelles which he used to manage these properties.
Identifying the aircraft and vessels serves as a warning to others, the Treasury said, that by continuing to provide service or landing rights they "may also be subject to future sanctions".