- The Biden administration imposed sanctions on four individuals accused of working at the direction of the Russian government to destabilize Ukraine.
- The sanctions come as world leaders brace for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and work with allies to deter the Kremlin from launching an attack.
- President Joe Biden said he expected President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine, while vowing that such a move would be "a disaster" for Russia.
The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on four individuals accused of working at the direction of the Russian government to destabilize Ukraine.
The sanctions come as world leaders brace for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and work with allies to deter the Kremlin from launching an attack.
But the Treasury Department said the new penalties are "separate and distinct" from a range of "high impact" economic and financial sanctions that the U.S. is threatening to impose on Russia if it further invades Ukraine.
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At a press conference a day earlier, President Joe Biden said he expected President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine, while vowing that such a move would be "a disaster" for Russia.
Thursday's sanctions target two "pawns" of Russian intelligence in Ukraine and two ex-Ukrainian officials backing Russia, the Treasury said in a press release.
"The United States is taking action to expose and counter Russia's dangerous and threatening campaign of influence and disinformation in Ukraine," said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo in the release. "We are committed to taking steps to hold Russia accountable for their destabilizing actions."
The Treasury accused the Kremlin of enacting in 2020 a "comprehensive" influence operation to co-opt its sympathizers in Ukraine while undermining prominent Ukrainians viewed as obstacles to a Russian takeover of its government.
The agency noted that Russia has used disinformation tactics for over a decade in other nations, including the U.S. since at least 2016.
The new sanctions were imposed on Taras Kozak, Oleh Voloshyn, Volodymyr Oliynyk and Vladimir Sivkovich.
Kozak and Voloshyn, two current Ukrainian Members of Parliament, are "at the heart" of Kremlin efforts to recruit government officials in order to take over Ukraine and control it with an occupying force, the Treasury said.
Kozak is designated for his involvement in interference efforts in foreign government elections on Russia's behalf. He is accused of undermining Ukrainian leaders and amplifying false narratives about the 2020 U.S. elections.
Voloshyn is sanctioned for working for Russia. Treasury accused him of working with Konstantin Kilimnik, an accused Russian agent who worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to share information to influence the U.S. election.
Oliynik and Sivkovich are former Ukrainian officials. Oliynyk, who lives in Moscow, worked at the direction of the Russia's FSB intelligence wing to gather information about Ukraine's infrastructure, Treasury said.
Sivkovich "worked with a network of Russian intelligence actors to carry out influence operations" supporting Russia's goals, Treasury alleged.
Both are sanctioned for working for Russia.