Putin calls on Russians to cast their votes for country's future

Donald Trump exits the stage following a rally in Cedar Rapids Iowa

Donald Trump exits the stage following a rally in Cedar Rapids

The Trump administration on Thursday imposed fresh financial sanctions on Russian government hackers and spy agencies to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and for a cyberattack against Ukraine and other countries past year that officials have characterized as "the most destructive and costly" in history.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said there would be additional sanctions against Russian government officials and oligarchs "for their destabilising activities". The officials said the Russians deliberately chose U.S. energy industry targets, obtaining access to computer systems and then conducting "network reconnaissance" of industrial control systems that run American factories and the electricity grid.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign using hacking and propaganda, an effort that eventually included attempting to tilt the race in President Donald Trump's favor.

Relations between the USA and Russia have worsened in recent years over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and alleged Russian interference in the US presidential campaign.

Those targeted by the new sanctions include the Russian nationals and entities charged on February 16 by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller with conspiring to tamper in the election.

In addition to those included in Mueller's indictments, sanctions were slapped on two Russian intelligence agencies, the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate, as well as some of their employees.

The sanctions prompted a swift threat of retaliation from Russia's government, which said a response was already being prepared.

"The targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russian Federation", said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, which almost unanimously passed a new sanctions bill against Russian Federation last summer, had criticized Trump for not punishing Moscow.

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They also said that the CRPF trooper who was injured during the gunfight is stable. The policeman identified as Bilal Ahmad suffered injuries in the attack.

There's little suspense about Sunday's Russian presidential election, but a lot of questions - and concerns - over what Vladimir Putin might do next with another six-year term in his pocket and a string of unresolved confrontations with the West.

In its toughest challenge to Russian Federation to date, the Trump administration accused Moscow on Thursday of an elaborate plot to penetrate America's electric grid, factories, water supply and even air travel through cyber-hacking.

But Mr. Trump's comments came a full day after his United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, took the lead with a more powerful statement at the Security Council.

"I have long argued Vladimir Putin is not - and has never been - America's friend", said Sen.

The US Treasury Department has instituted a new set of sanctions against five entities and 19 individuals tied to Russian hacking and influence operations. Numerous main entities and individuals hit - including the spy agencies and "troll factory" boss Yevgeny Prigozhin - already face assets freezes and travel bans, either put in place under Barack Obama's administration or for actions linked to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

US President Donald Trump has faced fierce criticism in the US for doing too little to punish Russian Federation for the election meddling and other actions. "But more must be done", he said.

The Treasury Department said the GRU and Russia's military both interfered in the 2016 election and were "directly responsible" for the NotPetya cyberattack that hit businesses across Europe in June 2017, causing billions of dollars in damage by disrupting global shipping, trade and medicine production. Whether it is masked men in eastern Ukraine, a chemical weapons attack in the English countryside, or an attempted coup in the Balkans, the process is more or less the same-facing any accusations, Kremlin denies everything and declares, "You can't prove it was us".

Russian Federation has also been accused of being behind a nerve agent attack on one of its former spies in Britain, who had fed information to British authorities, and his daughter. The sanctions also responded to other cyberattacks, including a previously undisclosed attempt to penetrate the US energy grid.

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