US sanctions two Russians for impersonating media outlets

Two Russian nationals, directed by the Kremlin, set up websites designed to impersonate government organizations and legitimate media outlets in Europe, the US Department of the Treasury has announced.

Ilya Andreevich Gambashidze, the founder of the Moscow-based company Social Design Agency (SDA), together with Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tupikin, the CEO and current owner of Russia-based firm Structura, were designated with a foreign malign influence campaign, including attempting to impersonate legitimate media outlets.

According to the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), both individuals and their respective companies “were involved in a persistent foreign malign influence campaign at the direction of the Russian Presidential Administration.”

SDA and Structure were identified to be key actors behind a malign campaign that impersonated news websites, staged videos, and fake social media accounts. US authorities claim that Tupikin and Gambashidze, on behalf of the Russian government, set up over 60 counterfeit websites and many more social media accounts to amplify content posted on the fake websites.

“The fake websites appeared to have been built to carefully mimic the appearance of legitimate news websites. The fake websites included embedded images and working links to legitimate sites and even used the impersonated site’s cookie acceptance page,” reads the Treasury’s statement.

Getting sanctioned by the US essentially cuts off companies and individuals from using services of the international financial system, as any institutions dealing with sanctioned companies or people risk getting sanctioned themselves.

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