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Treasury Department Announces New Russia Sanctions

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WASHINGTON -

The Treasury Department on Thursday announced a new round of sanctions against Russian persons and entities the U.S. government believes helped meddle in the 2016 elections and have engaged in cyber attacks.

"The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. "These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia." The action follows the indictment in February of individuals and companies related to the Russian Internet Research Agency's attempts to disrupt the U.S. political system. 

Using information provided by the intelligence community, the department said in the statement that it intends to introduce new sanctions "to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the U.S. financial system." 

According to the statement, the new sanctions are partly in response to the June 2017 "NotPetya" cyber attack that the U.S. and British government believe was carried out by the Russian military.

"This cyber-attack was the most destructive and costly cyber-attack in history," the statement says. "The attack resulted in billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia, and the United States, and significantly disrupted global shipping, trade, and the production of medicines. Additionally, several hospitals in the United States were unable to create electronic records for more than a week." 

Among the sanctions targets is Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef." Prigozhin is considered to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he is also the "mastermind" behind the Internet Research Agency which orchestrated the cyber disinformation campaign during the 2016 election.  Their close association is another reason why U.S. intelligence officials believe this cyber influence campaign was authorized by Putin. 

CBS News' Jeff Pegues notes that Russia analysts both in intelligence circles and law enforcement, believe sanctions are among the most effective way to curb Putin's behavior. 

The government says that Russia has been carrying out cyber attacks against U.S. government agencies and "critical infrastructure sectors" since "at least March 2016." The sanctions target Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA), which has been described as a Russian government "troll farm," as well as a number of people who assisted the IRA's efforts.

As a result of Thursday's sanctions, "all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them." Additional sanctions target Russia's two main intelligence agencies, the FSB and GRU, as well as people associated with them. The GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, is believed to be the main culprit for the NotPetya attack.

On Wednesday, the State Department released a statement condemning Russia on the fourth anniversary of its invasion and occupation of the Crimean peninsula, a Ukrainian territory on the Black Sea. The U.S. says Crimea is still legally part of Ukraine, while the Russian government says it has formally annexed the territory. 

CBS News' Jeff Pegues contributed to this report.

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