This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The United States has sanctioned four Ukrainian nationals, including two members of parliament, after accusing them of supporting Russian efforts to destabilize the country.
Taras Kozak, Oleh Voloshyn, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Vladimir Sivkovich acted “at the direction” of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to undermine Ukraine, the State Department said in a January 20 statement announcing the sanctions.
“In 2020, Kremlin officials launched a comprehensive information operation plan designed in part to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to independently function; the individuals designated today played key roles in that campaign,” the State Department said.
Kozak and Voloshyn are deputies from the Kremlin-leaning party led by Victor Medvedchuk, a powerful tycoon who maintains close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kozak and Voloshyn worked to undermine Ukrainian government officials and act on behalf of Russia, the Treasury Department said in a separate statement. Kozak also used his news platforms to spread false information about the 2020 U.S. election, it said.
Medvedchuk, who is already on the U.S. sanctions list, allegedly took part in directing these activities, the Treasury Department said in a separate statement.
Ukraine last year sanctioned Kozak and his television stations, alleging they were financed by activities in the two territories controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
Oliynyk, a former Ukrainian official who fled to Russia, helped the FSB gather information about Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, the Treasury Department said.
Sivkovich, a former deputy secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, worked on behalf of the Kremlin to build support for recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, it said.
The sanctions essentially cut the individuals off from the U.S. banking system, including freezing any dollar accounts they own.
The United States and its allies have been warning Russia for weeks that it faces severe economic penalties if it attacks Ukraine.
Russia has massed more than 125,000 troops near its border with Ukraine since late autumn in what the United States said could be a prelude to an invasion.
The State Department said the sanctions against the four individuals are separate from the penalties being considered by the West in the event Russia invades Ukraine.