The Trump administration on Tuesday added to its growing list of sanctions against Russia, The Associated Press reported.
The Treasury Department announced two new actions against Russian targets, blacklisting two companies and two individuals suspected of trying to circumvent U.S. sanctions imposed in June in response to cyberattacks. Sanctions were also slapped against two Russian shipping companies suspected of transferring petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Russia’s Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank for handling transactions for North Korea in violation of United Nations bans.
While President Donald Trump has sought closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his administration has intensified economic pressure on Moscow over what it describes as "malign Russian activity" in Ukraine and Syria and Russia's attempts to disrupt western democracies.
Russia denies accusations of election meddling, but suspicions of interference deepened Tuesday when Microsoft said it had uncovered new Russian hacking efforts targeting U.S. political groups before November's midterm elections. Russian officials dismissed the company's claims as unfounded.
Microsoft said that a group tied to the Russian government created fake websites that appeared to spoof two American conservative organizations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Three other fake sites were designed to look as if they belonged to the U.S. Senate, according to AP.
The U.S. sanctions announced Tuesday targeted two companies and people suspected of trying to circumvent existing sanctions against Divetechnoservices of St. Petersburg. That company was sanctioned in June for procuring underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, including the Federal Security Service, formerly Russia's KGB spy service.
The two companies targeted in Tuesday's action were Vela-Marine and Lacno S.R.O., which is based in Slovakia.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded to the new U.S. sanctions, calling them groundless and promising a response from Moscow.
In a statement quoted by Reuters, Ryabkov also said the sanctions were introduced under a “false pretense”.
Trump and Putin met last month in Helsinki. At a press conference following that meeting, Trump appeared to back Putin’s claims regarding Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, comments which caused an uproar among both Republicans and Democrats.
Later, he sought to walk back those remarks, stressing, “I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place.”
Trump then clarified in an interview on CBS News that it is "true" Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and stressed he would hold Putin responsible for interference.