World News

U.S. blacklists individuals, entities linked to leader of Russia's IRA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday said it imposed sanctions on individuals and entities linked to the leader and financier of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a “Russian troll farm.”

The Treasury in a statement said it imposed sanctions against “the network of Kremlin-connected Russian operative” Evgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and leader of the IRA.

The Russian IRA is a St Petersburg-based company that U.S. intelligence officials say was central to Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this month, Facebook said it found links to individuals associated with past activity by the IRA as part of its investigation into a Russian influence operation that posed as an independent news outlet to target left-wing voters in the United States and Britain.

“Prigozhin has an international network of supporters to spread his malign political and economic influence around the globe,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to target the ability of Prigozhin to conduct operations globally,” he added.

The Treasury accused the individuals and entities blacklisted on Wednesday of working on behalf of Prigozhin to “advance Russia’s influence in the Central African Republic.”

Prigozhin, already hit with U.S. sanctions, has ties to mining, security and logistics companies in Central African Republic, the Treasury said, adding that his operations in the country are reportedly coordinated with Russia’s foreign affairs and defense ministries.

Wednesday’s move blacklisting a total of eight individuals and seven entities also targeted those the Treasury accused of assisting the activities of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir to the Soviet-era KGB, and those helping blacklisted Russians evade U.S. sanctions.

The action freezes any U.S. assets of those hit with sanctions and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Bill Berkrot