The Treasury Department on Thursday announced the loosening of sanctions on Russia’s spy service that were imposed by former President Obama for Moscow’s intelligence operations targeting the 2016 presidential election. A notice posted on the website of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the department’s sanctions enforcement unit, stated the sanctions on Russia’s Federal Security Service, the security and intelligence agency known as FSB, were eased. The FSB was slapped with sanctions Dec. 29 by the Obama administration following an intelligence assessment that concluded the agency, along with the Russian GRU military spy service and senior Russian leaders, engaged in cyber attacks to influence the outcome of the election.
“We’re not easing sanctions,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, adding that Treasury made the change as “specific carve-outs” for industries or products.
A senior Treasury official who briefed reporters on the action said the measure was a technical and routine adjustment of the sanctions designed to help U.S. companies do business in Russia. The sanctions on FSB are very much in place, the official said.
The official declined to comment on reactions from Moscow, including statements by former FSB director Nikolai Kovalyov who said the move signaled closer U.S.-Russian cooperation on terrorism.