SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
The Trump administration has announced new sanctions on Russia over its interference in the 2016 election and other cyberattacks. The sanctions target 19 Russians and five Russian entities. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas joins us now with details. Hi, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Howdy.
MCCAMMON: So first off, who exactly is getting sanctioned here?
LUCAS: Well, as you said, there are 19 people and five entities in all. They break down basically into about two groups. The first and biggest batch is made up of 13 Russians and three businesses that are being hit with sanctions over their role interfering in the 2016 election. These individuals and entities are the same ones that were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month over what investigators say was their involvement in the disinformation campaign during the 2016 race here. One entity that may ring a bell is the Internet Research Agency. That's the troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia, that ginned up a lot of the disinformation and propaganda and fake accounts that we saw to try to influence the presidential race.
MCCAMMON: OK, and what about the other Russians sanctioned today?
LUCAS: Right, so the other two entities are big Russian intelligence services - the federal security service known as the FSB. And then there's Russia's main military intelligence organization. That's the GRU. The other individuals facing new sanctions are six senior officials in the GRU. The U.S. says they are facing these sanctions over malicious cyber activities including but not limited to the election interference. So senior administration officials provided some details on those other attacks. One was called NotPetya, which the U.S. attributed to Russia. That attack caused billions of dollars of damage across the globe. And then there are other cyberattacks that continue against the United States.
MCCAMMON: And, Ryan, how significant of a move are these sanctions?
LUCAS: Well, these are certainly the most meaningful actions that we've seen to date from the Trump administration against Russia. But these aren't a game changer. They're largely symbolic. This isn't anything along the lines of what the U.S. and its allies did after Russia's intervention in Ukraine. These aren't going to squeeze the Russian economy. And that's really not their goal. This is much more narrow - aimed at punishing those involved in cyberattacks. These sanctions will bar these folks from traveling to the U.S. It will freeze their assets in the U.S. and bar American businesses and Americans from doing business with them.
So the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee - that's Mark Warner - says the sanctions are a good move, says they're a little late, and they don't go far enough. He also points out that a lot of the individuals sanctioned today were already sanctioned by the U.S. during the Obama administration. And that, of course, opens the door to criticism that this isn't serious action from the Trump administration against Russia. And, of course, the president has consistently questioned whether Moscow interfered at all during the 2016 campaign.
MCCAMMON: Right, and these sanctions come at yet another tense time between Russia and the West. Britain has blamed the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in the U.K. on Russia. Is the timing of the sanctions related to that?
LUCAS: Well, when they announced these sanctions today, U.S. officials mentioned the nerve agent attack in Britain that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter both hospitalized. U.S. officials called it another example of Russia's reckless and irresponsible behavior. But these sanctions are not directly in response to that. That said, President Trump did address the nerve agent attack today. And here's what he had to say.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it - something that should never, ever happen. And we're taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.
LUCAS: Now the U.S., along with France and Germany, joined the U.K. in blaming Russia for that nerve agent attack in Britain. They say it's the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II - so for a very long time. They say it was an assault on Britain's sovereignty. But what they don't say is what actions they're going to take, either on their own or together, in response to this.
MCCAMMON: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.
LUCAS: Thank you.
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