World Media

Biden imposes new sanctions on Russian Federation in response to 2020 election interference

US poised to sanction Russia for cyber-attacks

As has always been anticipated, USA president Joe Biden has today (15 April) signed an executive order imposing fresh sanctions on Russia over a pattern of malicious cyber attacks against the U.S. and allies, including the December 2020 SolarWinds attacks, which it has now formally attributed to the Russian state-backed APT29, or Cosy Bear.

Several of the sanctioned entities have links to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman dubbed "Putin's Chef" for his Kremlin catering contracts and close ties to the president.

The adversary's compromise of the SolarWinds software supply chain is said to have given it the ability to remotely spy or potentially disrupt more than 16,000 computer systems worldwide, according to the executive order issued by the USA government.

Neither move, however, affects Russian sovereign debt traded in the secondary market, meaning that USA persons can continue to buy and sell such bonds there.

The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted angrily, summoning the USA ambassador for a diplomatic dressing-down to tell him "a series of retaliatory measures will follow soon". The move could deter investment in the bonds and increase Russian borrowing costs.

He also detailed his phone call with Putin earlier this week, as well as his administration's approach to bilateral relations.

Britain has accused Russia's foreign intelligence agency of responsibility for a major cyber attack affecting thousands of organisations in the West. The sanctions aren't specifically tied to that intelligence. She vowed an "inevitable" response from Russian Federation but didn't elaborate on what measures would come. The measures are to be announced Thursday according to the official who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Responding to initial reports of the planned sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they "wouldn't facilitate" the planned summit but stopped short of saying they would derail it. "People understood that sanctions were inevitable".

In a potentially conciliatory gesture, the USA this week dropped plans to send two warships into the Black Sea after Russian Federation warned the move would be "extremely provocative".

The Obama administration expelled diplomats from the 2016 in response to interference in that year's presidential election.

Russian Federation denies meddling in USA elections, orchestrating a cyber hack that used US tech company SolarWinds Corp to penetrate USA government networks, and using a nerve agent to poison Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

He said the competition between the world's leading intelligence services "should be fair". Others targeted include individuals and entities that operate outside Russian Federation at the behest of Moscow.

Though several Republicans in congress have called on the president to do more in the way of retaliating against Russia, the president stood by his decision to expel 10 Russian officials from the USA, and the enforcement of sweeping sanctions.

The administration announced sanctions against Russian officials over Navalny last month but has so far held off on action in the other three areas. Trump disputed the legitimacy of intelligence reports that Russian Federation may have been offering bounties to Taliban fighters.

In addition, Treasury issued a directive that prohibits USA financial institutions from participation in the primary market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds issued after June 14, 2021 by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and provided authority for the US government to expand sovereign debt sanctions on Russia as appropriate.

The malicious code was signed by the legitimate SolarWinds code signing certificate. In that intrusion Russian hackers are believed to have infected widely used software with malicious code enabling them to access the networks of at least nine agencies in what U.S. officials believe was an intelligence gathering operation aimed at Mining Government secrets.

It also said the attack on SolarWinds highlighted the risks posed by Russian attempts to target victims via their supply chains and served as a warning of the risks of using ICT and services supplied by companies that operate or store user data in Russia, or rely on software development or technical support there.

-With assistance from Henry Meyer, Áine Quinn, Tony Halpin, Saleha Mohsin, Ilya Arkhipov and Evgenia Pismennaya.