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US Senator urges administration to sanction Russians indicted for cyberattacks

Senator Bob Menendez (POMED/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The highest-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is calling on the Trump administration to impose targeted sanctions on five Russian nationals indicted last week by the Justice Department for a series of cyberattacks.

Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose the sanctions in a letter on October 28.

Menendez urged Mnuchin to counter the threat of cyberattacks with “all the tools at its disposal,” including sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

“The Russian government’s ongoing cyberattacks targeting U.S. individuals, companies, and institutions remain a significant threat to our country’s security,” Menendez said in the letter. “The threat of malign Russian cyber activity is real, and the Treasury Department must send a message of zero tolerance to the Russian government to deter future attacks.”

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The United States charged six Russians on October 19 with a “destructive” criminal cybercampaign that included the worldwide distribution of harmful malware and attempts to undermine the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

The indictment also accused the men of hacking French elections, the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, and an international organization investigating Russia’s use of a deadly nerve agent.

Menendez named only five of the six because one of the men has already been sanctioned under CAATSA for hacking the website of a state board of elections.

The charges announced on October 19 are the latest in a series of cybercriminal indictments leveled by the United States against Russian state and nonstate actors.

The Russian nationals are all alleged to be officers in a unit of the Russian military intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, which the United States accused in 2018 of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Convention two years earlier.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady called the officers’ campaigns “the most destructive and costly cyberattacks in history.”

Brady said no country has weaponized its cybercapabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia.

The six men indicted are Yury Andrienko, Sergei Detistov, Pavel Frolov, Anatoly Kovalev, Artyom Ochichenko, and Pyotr Pliskin.

Kovalev was sanctioned under CAATSA in December 2018.