Jan 20, 2022 - World

U.S. sanctions 4 pro-Russia Ukrainians tied to destabilization efforts

Putin
Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned four Ukrainian nationals for engaging in "Russian government-directed influence activities" in Ukraine, including spreading false narratives "to create instability in advance of a potential Russian invasion."

Why it matters: The sanctions are distinct from the severe consequences that the U.S. and its European allies have pledged if Russia invades Ukraine, but underscore the "hybrid tactics" that the Kremlin has employed against its neighbor since 2014.

Details: The U.S. alleges that the four individuals — which include two Ukrainian members of parliament and two former officials — were recruited by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB.

  • Taras Kozak, a parliamentarian who owns several television channels, is alleged to have denigrated members of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inner circle and broadcast false information about then-candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 U.S. election.
  • Oleh Voloshyn, another parliamentarian, is accused of seeking to undermine the Ukrainian government and advance Russian interests. He is also accused of working with U.S.-sanctioned Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence officer with ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
  • Volodymyr Oliynyk, a former Ukrainian official, is alleged to have worked at the direction of the FSB to gather information about Ukrainian critical infrastructure for Russian cyber attacks.
  • Vladimir Sivkovich, a former member of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, is accused of carrying out influence operations to build support for Ukraine officially ceding Crimea to Russia in exchange for a drawdown of Russian-backed forces in the Donbas region. He is also accused of involvement in Russia's disinformation campaign during the 2020 U.S. election.

What they're saying: "In 2020, Kremlin officials launched a comprehensive information operation plan designed in part to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to function independently and without Russian interference," the Treasury Department said in a statement.

  • "This included identifying and co-opting pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine and undermining prominent Ukrainians viewed as pro-Western, who would stand in the way of Russian efforts to bring Ukraine within its control."
  • "Goals of the plan included destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine and laying the groundwork for creating a new, Russian-controlled government in Ukraine."
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