U.S. Sanctions 4 Ukrainian Officials It Says Helped Russia With Disinformation Campaign

Four Ukrainian officials had new sanctions imposed against them by the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday over accusations that they are part of a Russian disinformation effort regarding the invasion of Ukraine.

Parliament members Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn, and former government officials Valdimir Sivkovich and Volodymyr Oliynyk are involved in disinformation efforts by Russia's federal security service (FSB), according to the Treasury Department.

The four men are part of a Kremlin effort that began in 2020 "to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to independently function," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, according to the Associated Press.

Kozak, who controls several news channels in Ukraine, is accused of amplifying false narratives about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's inner circle and the 2020 presidential elections, Treasury said.

Voloshyn worked with Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly attempted to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He also was accused of passing on information to Russian intelligence, according to Treasury.

Sivkovich worked last year with a network of Russian intelligence activists to carry out influence operations and is the former deputy secretary for national security and defense councils, Treasury said.

Oliynyk, who is living in Russia, worked at the order of the FSB to gather Ukrainian critical infrastructure information, according to Treasury.

President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he believes Moscow will invade Ukraine and that Russian President Vladimir Putin's nation would pay a "dear price" in lives lost, as well as a possible restriction in access to the global banking system, AP reported.

Biden also said the U.S. would react with measured response if there was only a "minor incursion."

"We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations," Zelenskyy tweeted on Thursday before the new sanctions were imposed. "Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky
Four Ukrainian officials had new sanctions imposed against them by the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday over accusations that they are part of a Russian disinformation effort regarding the invasion of Ukraine. Above, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with U.S. President Joe Biden (not shown) in the Oval Office of the White House on September 1, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The newly imposed sanctions arrived less than 24 hours after Biden's remarks. Biden clarified his remarks on Thursday, saying, "I've been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding: Any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion."

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told AP in a statement: "The United States is taking action to expose and counter Russia's dangerous and threatening campaign of influence and disinformation in Ukraine. We are committed to taking steps to hold Russia accountable for their destabilizing actions."

Last week, the White House warned that Russia has stationed operatives in and around Ukraine as a pretext for an invasion. Some 100,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine's border and Russian officials are demanding written guarantees that NATO will not expand westward, but the alliance has refused to do so.

According to Reuters, Washington warned that it is prepared to take further action if a Ukraine invasion happens. It is alleged that Russian agents have sought to influence U.S. elections since 2016, Treasury said.