A White House order was issued Thursday morning orders the US government to expel ten diplomats and impose a series of new sanctions on Russian individuals and property in response to the SolarWinds hack. The order too places significant new restrictions on Russia’s national debt, which will make it more difficult for the country’s government to raise money and support its currency.
“The treasury will target Russian leaders, officials, intelligence agencies and their proxies trying to interfere in the US electoral process or undermine US democracy,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. “This is the beginning of a new US campaign against Russian malicious behavior.”
The hack was discovered in December and saw more than 250 federal agencies and companies compromised by a state-sponsored actor, who uncovered a network security firm called SolarWinds. US intelligence believes with great confidence that the attack was carried out by Russian foreign intelligence.
The sanctions also target 32 individuals believed to have participated in government efforts to influence the 2020 election, a disturbing reiteration of the 2016 influence campaign that hacked members of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. One such person is called Alexei Gromov, a deputy chief of staff in the office of the Russian president who reportedly spearheaded a Kremlin effort that “ sought to increase tensions in the United States by discrediting the U.S. election process in 2020. ‘, thus a statement from the Treasury Department
A number of private sector cybersecurity firms in Russia have also been sanctioned for their work in support of the government’s efforts.
Since February, Biden’s administration has been working to recover from the attack and change federal IT practices to protect against similar attacks in the future. In March, a White House spokesman described the security flaw as the result of “significant gaps in cybersecurity modernization and technology within the federal government”.
The sanctions mark a new low in US relations with Russia, exacerbated by reports that the country funded awards for the murder of US soldiers by the Taliban, as well as that of President Vladimir Putin continued retaliation against domestic opposition leaders
“The Biden administration has made it clear that the United States wants a relationship with Russia that is stable and predictable,” the White House said in a statement. “We don’t think we should continue on a negative trajectory. However, we have also been clear – public and private – that we will defend our national interests and impose charges for actions by the Russian government that try to harm us. “