As reported by Censor.NET citing The New York Times, the sanctions target five Russian companies and three individuals, some of whom are accused of directly supporting Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, in its efforts to carry out cyberattacks. They follow sanctions that the United States imposed in April on a roster of Russian business tycoons, government officials and corporations, and are the latest example of the hot and cold approach that the Trump administration has taken in handling one of America’s most prominent adversaries.
"The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cybercapabilities," Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement.
The sanctions come as President Trump’s presidential campaign continues to face a federal investigation into improper coordination with Russia, which meddled in the 2016 election. Last year, Congress passed legislation that curtailed Mr. Trump’s power to lift sanctions on Russia on his own, tying his hands with a rare showing of overwhelmingly bipartisan defiance.
That has not stopped Mr. Trump from embracing the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump called for Russia to be readmitted into the Group of 7 industrialized nations, despite having been kicked out for annexing Crimea in 2014.
The actions on Monday were required as part of the 2017 legislation — the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act — and it was not the first time the Trump administration used such measures to penalize Russia’s nefarious actions. In March, the administration took direct action against Russian organizations accused of interfering in the American election.
The Treasury Department said on Monday that the moves were in response to "malign and destabilizing" activities such as the NotPetya cyberattack in Ukraine last year, intrusions into America’s energy grid and efforts to compromise global digital infrastructure, including routers and switches. The sanctions are also intended to scuttle Russian efforts to track underwater communications cables that transmit much of the world’s data.
Digital Security, Kvant Scientific Research Institute and Divetechnoservices were among the groups that were sanctioned. The sanctions freeze the assets of the firms and individuals, and Americans are barred from doing business with them.
"The timing of the sanctions announcement is interesting considering Trump’s recent call for a summit meeting with Putin and his call for Russia to be invited back into the G-7," said Michael Casey, a sanctions expert at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
On April 6, the Office of Foreign Assets Control OFAC added 15 Russian entities and 24 nationals into the Ukraine Related Sanctions list.
As a result, Russia's richest oligarchs lost $12 bln in one day, Forbes wrote.
The sanctions also weakened the ruble as Russia's stock market saw the deepest drop since March 2014.