Amid Hacking Feud, Pindostan Hits Russia With New Sanctions
Deb Riechmann, Eileen Sullivan, AP, Jan 9 2017
The outgoing Obama administration on Monday blacklisted five Russians, including a senior policeman/ securicrat close to Pres Putin, as the two nations’ feud over supposed Pindosi election hacking escalated. Julian Assange denounced last week’s Pindosi intelligence report about the hacking as a “press release.” The economic sanctions against the five Russians are not related to the intelligence agencies’ findings, but to a 2012 law punishing Russian human rights violators. Pindostanis are now banned from doing business with these men, and any assets they may have in Pindostan are frozen. But the symbolic effect of the new penalties was more significant, following weeks of accusations that Moscow spearheaded a campaign designed to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in November’s presidential election. And their timing was unmistakable, just three days after intelligence agencies connected Putin directly to the hacking of Democrat accounts. According to the intelligence agencies, Russia provided the emails to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange, denies that is the case, but Congress critturs of both sexes have largely backed the accusation, and many have demanded a sterner response for meddling in Pindostan’s democratic process. Monday’s action could go some way to answering those calls. But Trump could repeal these sanctions when he takes office next week. He has expressed an interest in warming relations with Russia, and has voiced skepticism about the intelligence agencies’ conclusions.
The most prominent individual targeted by Pindostan is Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, which investigated the Magnitsky case in 2009. Two more Russians on the list Monday have been accused of trying to help cover up Magnitsky’s death. The remaining two are blamed by Britain for Litvinenko’s death. Forty-four Russians have now been subjected to Pindosi sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, the State Dept said. In late December, Pres Obama imposed sanctions on Russia directly tied to the election accusations, expelling 35diplomats and shutting down Russian retreats in New York and Maryland.. He also targeted the GRU and the FSB. The GRU’s chief and three deputies were individually blacklisted. Before the new penalties were announced, Putin spox D Peskov told reporters on Monday that the Kremlin still believes that the Pindosi accusations of election hacking had no substance. Peskov said:
They are amateurish and are hardly worthy of the high professional standards of top intelligence agencies. We categorically rule out the possibility that Russian officials or official bodies could have been involved. We are tired of such accusations. This is beginning to remind us of a full-fledged witch hunt.
The report accused Russia of hacking into the email accounts of the DNC + Podesta. Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, it said, although there was no suggestion such operations affected the actual vote count. It also explicitly tied Putin to the hackings, calling them the “boldest effort yet” to influence a Pindosi election. Julian Assange on Monday brushed aside the allegations. He called the report a politically-motivated “press release” that provided no evidence Russian actors gave WikiLeaks hacked material. The report lacked details about how Pindostan learned what it says it knows, such as any intercepted conversations or electronic messages from Russian leaders, including Putin. It also said nothing about specific hacker techniques or digital tools that it might have traced back to Russia in its investigations. A still-classified version of the report was shared late last week with Pres Obama, Trump and top Congress critturs.