US Sanctions Russians Allegedly Using Cryptocurrency to Influence Presidential Election

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United States (Courtesy: Twitter)
United States (Courtesy: Twitter)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced Thursday that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has “designated four Russia-linked individuals for attempting to influence the U.S. electoral process.”

The Treasury alleges that “Russia uses a variety of proxies to attempt to sow discord between political parties and drive internal divisions to influence voters” with the aim to “undermine democratic countries and institutions.” The announcement explains that in the U.S., “Russia has used a wide range of influence methods and actors to target our electoral process, including targeting U.S. presidential candidates.”

Three of the four people designated — Russian nationals Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev, and Darya Aslanova — are employees of the Russian troll factory known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the announcement notes, adding:

They supported the IRA’s cryptocurrency accounts. The IRA uses cryptocurrency to fund activities in furtherance of their ongoing malign influence operations around the world.

The Treasury Department has previously designated the troll factory and its Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin. The latter was designated for “providing material support to the IRA’s influence activities against the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.”

Lifshits was also separately charged by federal prosecutors Thursday. He allegedly serves “as a manager in ‘Project Lakhta,’ a Russia-based effort to engage in political and electoral interference operations,” according to the announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The Justice Department explained that since 2014, “Project Lakhta has sought to obscure its conduct by operating through a number of entities,” including the IRA. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers described:

Artem Lifshits, conspired with others to steal Americans’ identities and use them to open fraudulent bank and cryptocurrency accounts.