Following Portman Bipartisan Letter, Biden Administration Sanctions Russia for Occupation of Crimea, Cyberattacks, Election Interference

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement of new sanctions on Russia for the continued aggressive and harmful activities by the Government of the Russian Federation, including the occupation of Crimea, interference in the 2020 Presidential election, and cyberattacks against the United States. Portman has been vocal on the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression against the United States and our allies and sent letters to the administration last week urging immediate action for Russia’s role in last year’s SolarWinds Orion cyberattack. 

“I am pleased the Biden administration has announced sanctions against Russia for its malign activities, including the occupation of Crimea, cyberattacks, and its attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. These sanctions and the attribution of the SolarWinds hack to SVR follow the bipartisan letter I sent the administration last week calling for real-world consequences for cyberattacks against the United States—including sanctions and attribution. 

“I am glad to see the Biden administration finally address Russia’s continued occupation of Crimea through these sanctions as well. It is vital that we continue to support our allies in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military and people have fought bravely and made tremendous strides against Russian aggression. These sanctions help to show that the United States continues to stand with Ukraine in their fight to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future.

“Consistent with the recommendations announced in my July 2020 bipartisan PSI investigation, I applaud the Biden administration for moving quickly to announce expanded sanctions authorities and to designate sanctioned individuals and entities at the same time. As our PSI investigation showed, two Russian oligarchs sanctioned in response to the 2014 annexation of Crimea transferred over $120 million to Moscow during a four-day window between the announcement of sanctions and being named. Senator Carper and I recently reminded Secretary Yellen of the importance of concurrent announcement and naming in a letter to her in February.

“That said, given the extent to which these actions by Russia have caused damage to the United State and our allies, my hope is that this is only the beginning of actions taken by the Biden administration.”

NOTE: Last week, Senators Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), as Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget requesting information on the recent hack of SolarWinds Orion, which the administration recently officially attributed to the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. In the letter, the senators called for “deterrence efforts that create real-world consequences for cyber-attacks against the United States—investigation, attribution, prosecution, and sanctions.”

For the past four years, Portman successfully championed language in the annual NDAA that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine, while strongly encouraging the Ukrainian government to continue their efforts in eliminating corruption and continuing with much needed security sector reforms. As the Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus he has worked on a bipartisan manner to raise awareness of the issues facing Ukraine and to build consensus for supporting this strategic security partner. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has pressed successive administrations to provide lethal assistance to the country. For his efforts to support Ukraine, Portman was recognized with the Order Of St. Volodymyr Medal from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret. Portman also championed the bipartisan resolution marking the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, passed by the Senate in October 2018.

In addition, in July of 2020, Senators Portman and Tom Carper (D-DE), as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation (PSI), released a bipartisan report detailing how sanctioned Russian oligarchs continued to evade U.S. sanctions and purchase high-value art in the United States through anonymous shell companies and intermediaries. In that report, the senators outlined key recommendations to close loopholes in our policies that were being utilized by foreign actors to avoid sanctions, including asking the Treasury Department to 1) impose sanctions on the immediate family members of sanctioned individuals to stop the transfer of assets to family members, and 2) take necessary actions to both announce and implement sanctions by naming specific individuals and entities concurrently to avoid creating a window of opportunity for individuals to transfer assets before sanctions were put in place.