On Monday, Russia said it was “bewildered” by new US sanctions and vowed to retaliate following what it called an “anti-Russian attack”. The foreign ministry said that the new sanctions on several Russians along with a businessman tied to President Vladimir Putin and a disinformation operation accused of conspiring to manipulate the US 2018 midterm election — “will not go unanswered.”
The ministry said in a statement, “We urge American politicians to stop this useless sanctions game, the result of which is zero, and to return to the position of common sense.”
However, the final sanctions are the first to be taken under an executive order signed last year by President Donald Trump seeking to punish foreign actors accused of interfering in US elections. The move targeted Russian financier Evgeny Prigozhin, some of his assets and the so-called Internet Research Agency.
On Monday, the US Treasury announced the sanctions which the foreign ministry said were part of an “internal political crisis” in the United States in which “Russian issues are deliberately used by part of the Washington establishment as a tool to achieve their own opportunistic goals.”
The sanctions also indicated the third time the US had added Prigozhin’s name to its list of foreign nationals formally barred from the US financial system, a move which freezes him out of much of the global financial system as well.
Last year, the US prosecutors indicated that the Internet Research Agency as well as alleged employees, charging them with a broad conspiracy to influence the 2016 elections by spreading disinformation in the United States via social media.
On Monday, the US Treasury said the agency had declared its intention to do likewise in the 2018 midterms by seeking to discredit candidates it viewed as hostile to Moscow.
However, there is no evidence that they were successful in preventing voting, alerting vote counts or disrupting vote tallying, the Treasury said.