The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions against four current and former Ukrainian government officials for engaging in “Russian government-directed influence activities” in the country, including gathering sensitive information about its critical infrastructure.
The agency said the four individuals were involved in different roles as part of a concerted influence campaign to destabilize the nation, while also accusing Russia’s national security authority, the Federal Security Service (FSB), of recruiting Ukrainians in key positions to create instability.
Two officials, Taras Kolzak and Oleh Voloshyn are accused of conspiring to create false narratives and weaken confidence in Ukraine’s government. Meanwhile, Vladimir Sivkovich (ex-Deputy Secretary of Ukraine National Security Defense Council) attempted to gain support from Russia for Ukraine’s official ceding of Crimea to Russia.
“Russia has directed its intelligence services to 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,” the Treasury Department said.
Volodymyr Olinyk was the fourth Ukrainian official sanctioned. He worked in collaboration with the FSB in 2021 in order to gather information about critical infrastructure. This data was later used by Russian-backed hackers to launch a cyberwar against Ukraine.
“Russia has been conducting broad cyber operations against critical infrastructure. However, Russia is focusing on one sector of critical infrastructure in particular: Ukraine’s energy sector,” said the Treasury Department.
The sanctions come amid mounting tensions that Russia is preparing for a possible invasion of Ukraine, and almost a week after no fewer than 70 Ukrainian government agencies and private sector organizations fell victim to a coordinated digital assault that saw the websites defaced and a destructive malware deployed.