US targets Russian firms with sanctions over Kremlin-directed malign influence campaign

By Thomson Reuters Mar 20, 2024 | 9:34 AM

By Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two people and two companies it accused of supporting disinformation efforts directed by the Russian government, the U.S. Treasury Department said, as Washington increases pressure on Moscow.


Washington has repeatedly warned of Moscow’s efforts to sow disinformation and instability in democratic countries and the sanctions come amid serious tensions between the United States and Russia over the war in Ukraine and a raft of other issues.

In October, the U.S. released an intelligence assessment sent to more than 100 countries that found Moscow is using spies, social media and Russian state-run media to erode public faith in the integrity of democratic elections worldwide.

And in January, the head of the U.S. State Department’s office for disinformation said Washington believes Russia will conduct “information operations” aimed at turning opinion in Europe against Ukraine as countries across the continent go to the polls this year.


The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it imposed sanctions on the two people and two entities for providing services to Russia’s government in connection with a foreign malign influence campaign, including attempting to impersonate legitimate media outlets.

The Treasury said those targeted implemented a network of over 60 websites that impersonated legitimate news websites and that used misleading social media accounts.

Those targeted are: Moscow-based Social Design Agency, its founder Ilya Andreevich Gambashidze, Russia-based Company Group Structura LLC and its CEO and owner Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tupikin.

The sanctions freeze any of their U.S. assets and generally bar Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with those targeted also risk being hit with sanctions.


“We are committed to exposing Russia’s extensive campaigns of government-directed deception, which are intended to mislead voters and undermine trust in democratic institutions in the United States and around the world,” Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.

“The United States, along with our allies and partners, remains steadfast in defending our democratic principles and the credibility of our elections.”

A State Department spokesperson said: “The Kremlin’s ultimate goal in waging these influence campaigns is to undermine democracies. Efforts like these are meant to sow distrust in a free and independent press, and to drown out legitimate criticism with a flood of false information.”

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)