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US sanctions four Ukrainians for destabilizing Ukraine on behalf of Russian government

US sanctions Ukrainians
Taras Kozak (center) is a partner of Viktor Medvedchuk (left), an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and leader of the Opposition Platform-For Life. Photo: Opposition Platform-For Life
US sanctions four Ukrainians for destabilizing Ukraine on behalf of Russian government

On 20 January, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) enacted sanctions on four Ukrainian citizens engaged in Russian government-directed influence activities to destabilize Ukraine, including two MPs from the pro-Russian Opposition Platform-For Life party.

They are Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn, current Ukrainian Members of Parliament from the party led by “Putin’s best man in Ukraine” Viktor Medvedchuk, as well as former Ukrainian officials Volodymyr Oliynyk and Vladimir Sivkovich.

“Today’s action is intended to target, undermine, and expose Russia’s ongoing destabilization effort in Ukraine. This action is separate and distinct from the broad range of high-impact measures the United States and its Allies and partners are prepared to impose in order to inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system if it were to further invade Ukraine,” OFAC noted.

OFAC stated that the sanctioned Ukrainians acted under the direction of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), an intelligence service sanctioned by the United States, and supported Russia-directed influence operations against the United States and its allies and partners. It said that to designate the four individuals for sanctions, the US worked closely with the Ukrainian government “to identify and expose these actors to thwart Russia’s influence operations.”

OFAC claims that in 2020,

“Kremlin officials launched a comprehensive information operation plan designed in part to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to function independently and without Russian interference. This included identifying and co-opting pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine and undermining prominent Ukrainians viewed as pro-Western, who would stand in the way of Russian efforts to bring Ukraine within its control. Goals of the plan included destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine and laying the groundwork for creating a new, Russian-controlled government in Ukraine.”

The agency notes that Russia’s influence campaigns extend beyond Ukraine, and employ disinformation outlets and intelligence service affiliates to spread false narratives in support of its strategic goals:

“Since at least 2016, Russian agents have even sought to influence US elections by spreading disinformation, sowing discord among US audiences, and falsely denigrating US politicians and political parties.”

US sanctions for Ukrainians who took part in an FSB-directed plan to take over the government of Ukraine

OFAC details that Kozak and Voloshyn had helped Russian intelligence services recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to take over the government of Ukraine and to control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with an occupying Russian force. They are members of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform-For Life led by Viktor Medvedchuk, who is already under US sanctions for undermining Ukrainian sovereignty in 2014.

Medvedchuk maintains close ties with the Kremlin, and also took part in directing these activities, OFAC claims.

“Kozak, who controls several news channels in Ukraine, supported the FSB’s plan to denigrate senior members of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inner circle, falsely accusing them of mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Kozak used his news platforms to amplify false narratives around the 2020 US elections first espoused by US-designated Andrii Leonidovych Derkach. Kozak has attempted to legitimatize Derkach’s claims by rebroadcasting Derkach’s false assertions about US political candidates. Throughout 2020, Kozak worked alongside FSB intelligence agents. 

Voloshyn has worked with Russian actors to undermine Ukrainian government officials and advocate on behalf of Russia. Voloshyn also worked with US-designated Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national with ties to Russian intelligence who was sanctioned for attempts to influence the US 2020 presidential election, to coordinate passing on information to influence US elections at the behest of Russia.”

Volodymyr Oliynyk, a former official and a former MP of the Party of Regions of Ukraine’s exiled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych who fled Ukraine to seek refuge in Russia, worked in 2021 at the direction of the FSB to gather information about Ukrainian critical infrastructure, OFAC says. The infrastructure falls under attack of Russian cyber operations which are part of Russia’s hybrid tactics to threaten Ukraine and pull it into Russia’s orbit by thwarting Ukraine’s efforts at Western integration, OFAC stated.

Vladimir Sivkovich, the former Deputy Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, worked with a network of Russian intelligence actors to carry out influence operations that attempted to build support for Ukraine to officially cede Crimea to Russia in exchange for a drawdown of Russian-backed forces in the Donbas in 2021, OFAC claims.

In early 2020, Sivkovich coordinated with Russian intelligence services to promote Derkach’s disinformation campaign against the US 2020 presidential election. Sivkovich, who has ties to the FSB, also supported an influence operation targeting the United States from 2019 to 2020, the agency states.

What sanctions mean

Persons under sanctions have their property blocked and reported to OFAC. Companies that are 50% owned by the sanctioned persons, directly or indirectly, are also blocked. US citizens are prohibited from conducting any transactions connected to sanctioned persons.  transactions by US persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

In December 2021, the USA sanctioned two Ukrainians accused of corruption.

In January 2021, the United States expanded the list of individuals and companies sanctioned on accusation of interfering in the US elections. The list includes Oleksandr Dubinsky, an MP from Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People faction, Oleksandr Onyschenko, a former MP, Kostiantyn Kulyk, a former prosecutor, and Andriy Telizhenko, a former employee of the Ukrainian embassy in the United States who helped President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolf Giuliani gather information in Ukraine harm former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

In 2020, the United States imposed sanctions on Verkhovna Rada MP Andriy Derkach, who published tapes that allegedly contain voices of Poroshenko and Biden.

Kozak and Medvdechuk are under Ukrainian sanctions as well. Medvedchuk has been accused of high treason and is currently under custody.

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