WASHINGTON, Jan 11 - The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on several Ukrainian individuals, including a member of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party, for their alleged role in interfering with the U.S. presidential election.
Oleksandr Dubinskiy, a member of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party in Parliament, is a key ally of Ihor Kolomoyskiy, a powerful oligarch who is currently under investigation by the U.S. for alleged money laundering.
Other individuals are close allies of Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker in Ukraine who is allegedly linked to Russian security services. Derkach, who was sanctioned in September, and the individuals led an effort to dig up dirt on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and his son.
“Russian disinformation campaigns targeting American citizens are a threat to our democracy,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement.
The U.S. Treasury Department action freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from doing business with them.
“The United States will continue to aggressively defend the integrity of our election systems and processes,” Mnuchin added.
The sanctions also target several media companies mostly affiliated with Derkach and will have a major impact on Ukrainian politics, analysts said.
“The impact of the new sanctions will also resonate loudly within the Ukrainian political arena,” Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said.
“Derkach’s media empire has relatively limited reach. However, the US decision to target his media outlets based on their role in the spread of Russian disinformation sets an important precedent and will raise questions over who might be next in line for similar treatment,” Aslund said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest Ukrainian ally, the Ukrainian lawmaker and opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, reportedly controls a pro-Russian media portfolio far larger than Derkach’s that includes a number of prominent Ukrainian TV news channels.
“Medvedchuk himself has been on the U.S. sanctions list since 2014 for his role in the occupation of Crimea,” Aslund said. “Will America soon consider sanctioning his TV channels?”
With Ukrainian lawmaker Dubinskiy now joining Derkach and Medvedchuk on the sanctions list, this means the current Ukrainian parliament contains three prominent lawmakers who are each subject to sanctions by the United States.
“All three stand accused of being Russian agents or supporting Russian interests,” Aslund said. “There are hopes that this is the first indication of a new US approach to Russian interference that will gain further momentum in the weeks and months ahead.”
Also blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury are former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Onyshchenko; Petro Zhuravel, a member of Derkach’s media team; Derkach supporter Dmytro Kovalchuk; and Anton Simonenko, who the Treasury Department said served as Derkach’s assistant and helped him hide financial assets; former Ukrainian government officials Andrii Telizhenko and former prosecutor Konstantin Kulyk.
Among the entities blacklisted was the Ukrainian website NABU Leaks, the source of leaked audio of conversations between Biden and former Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko. The website’s content closely aligns with Derkach’s agenda and talking points. (nr/ez)