- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions Thursday on a Russian-linked member of Ukraine’s Parliament for interfering in the U.S. presidential election, including efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden.

Andrii Derkach has been a shadowy figure lurking in the background of the debate over foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process. He met with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, in 2019, when Mr. Giuliani was seeking information about possible business and corruption ties involving Mr. Biden and his family in the former Soviet republic.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly condemned reports that his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election a “hoax” designed to undermine his presidency. He has retweeted some of the material Mr. Derkach allegedly produced on his Democratic rival.

But the Treasury Department notice Thursday charged that Mr. Derkach “has directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

Andrii Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system.”

The administration said Mr. Derkach has been waging “a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, spurring corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to Election Day.”

On Aug. 7, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence singled out Mr. Derkach for “spreading claims about corruption … to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy.”

Mr. Derkach allegedly released heavily edited audio tapes of phone conversations between then-Vice President Biden and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko.

The tapes were intended to back up charges that Mr. Biden had demanded the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor because the prosecutor was investigating a gas company in Ukraine where Mr. Biden’s son Hunter held a board seat. Mr. Derkach has said he got the information from journalists.

Derkach’s unsubstantiated narratives were pushed in Western media through coverage of press conferences and other news events, including interviews and statements,” the Treasury Department statement said.

Between May and July of this year, Mr. Derkach released the edited audio tapes and “other unsupported information with the intent to discredit U.S. officials, and he levied unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. and international political figures,” the statement added said. The department said the sanctions are “a clear signal to Moscow and its proxies that this activity will not be tolerated.”

Treasury also designated for sanctions three Russian nationals linked to the “troll farm” Internet Research Agency, which is owned and operated by Kremlin-linked oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin. Congressional Democrats have alleged that Mr. Derkach disseminated anti-Biden information to Republican lawmakers investigating the Democrat’s role in Ukraine.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, has been investigating the work of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter for a Ukrainian energy company. Mr. Johnson has denied that Mr. Derkach fed information to the panel.

Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat who had pressed the administration to take action against Mr. Derkach, said Senate Republicans should abandon their probe of the Bidens.

Derkach has been central in advancing the Russian disinformation that underpins Senate Republicans’ effort to smear Vice President Biden,” Mr. Wyden said. “Senate investigations should not parrot conspiracy theories pushed by Russian agents under U.S. sanctions, and Senate Republicans should immediately abandon this blatantly political effort.”

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