The United States Treasury Department issued sanctions against four officials from Ukraine who are accused of helping Russian forces set the stage for an invasion.
The officials include two current members of parliament, Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn, and two former government officials, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Vladimir Sivkovich.
The Treasury says the officials have been involved in the dissemination of false information on behalf of Russian security forces. They have been working with the Kremlin since 2002 “to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to independently function,” according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The sanctions are “intended to target, highlight, and undercut Russia’s ongoing destabilization effort in Ukraine,” Blinken said on Jan. 20.
“It 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,” he added.
“Russia has used hybrid tactics, including disinformation and other influence campaigns, to destabilize Ukraine for years,” Blinken said. “The United States will continue to take steps, including through actions like this one, and in partnership with the Ukrainian government, to identify, expose, and undercut Russia’s destabilization efforts in Ukraine. The United States also will continue to expose and counter Russia’s global campaign of malign influence, in Ukraine and beyond.”
Blinken’s announcement comes the day after President Joe Biden said he thinks Moscow will invade the neighboring nation during his primetime address on the final day of his first year in office.
“I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding. If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” Biden said on Jan. 19.
He continued, “I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do.”
He later clarified at a press conference that he had meant to suggest that NATO allies would need to work together to respond to any hypothetical aggression from Russia.
His comments caused concern in Kyiv, where tension has been mounting for months.
“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” tweeted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Jan. 20 before the new sanctions were announced. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”