Yesterday, President Obama issued an amendment to Executive Order 13694 related to malicious cyber activities which imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies (the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate), four individual intelligence agency officers and three Russian vendors that provided cyber support to one of the sanctioned agencies. In an official statement, President Obama explained that the amendment was a response to “the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.” The amendment also authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to sanction any additional individuals or entities determined to be engaged in “tampering with, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.” The nine individuals and entities named in the E.O. 13694 amendment are now listed on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN list”) maintained by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). This places a freeze on any property within the U.S. belonging to those individuals or entities and also prohibits persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in trade with the sanctioned individuals and entities. Shortly thereafter, OFAC exercised its authority under a separate section of E.O. 13694 and added two Russian cyber criminals to the SDN list along with the nine individuals and entities named by President Obama (list found here).
In addition to adding the names to the SDN list, President Obama authorized the State Department to expel 35 Russian diplomats in the U.S. giving them 72 hours to leave the country on the basis that they were “acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status”. President Obama’s statement pledged to take additional action towards Russia, which could possibly result in even further expansion of these sanctions.
In response to the U.S. actions, the initial indication from Kremlin officials was that Russia would take retaliatory action, but Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has since announced that Russia would not take similar steps in retaliation indicating that he would wait for the actions of President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on Jan. 20, before deciding on any further steps in relations with the U.S.