US SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIAN MEDIA ACTIVITIES

 

General information on sanctions in US

The United States have adopted since the annexation of Crimea a significant number of sanctions against Russia. These sanctions are managed by a department of the US Department of Treasury, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

A detailed presentation of the sanctions concerning Russia can be found on the OFAC website. A database makes it possible to identify companies or persons subject to sanctions.

The US Department of State maintains a website Disarming Disinformation: Our Shared Responsibility, where the disinformation by Russia is one of the main topics. 

1. Sanctions concerning media companies

1.1. Sanctions before the Ukraine invasion

The 1st September 2016, various subsidiaries of the Gazprom group were included in the OFAC list, including Gazprom Media Holding. The Gazprom Media Holding was created in 1998 by the PJSC Gazprom to manage its media assets.  The Holding owns 9 terrestrial TV channels, 32 special interest channels, 3 video services (Premier, RuTube and the OTT service of NTV Plus, 2 film distribution company, 1 satellite TV operator (NTV Plus), 4 magazines, 3 advertising assets, 10 radio stations, 3 digital media platforms, 9 production studios. It the description of its mission, Gazprom Media Holding recognise its close relations with the State :  “We understand the importance of common values and don’t see ourselves as something separate from our viewers, the State and society; instead, we strive to work together for the common good.” Gazprom Media Holding as well as the  company JOINT STOCK COMPANY NTV BROADCASTING COMPANY are on the sanctions list of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  JSC NTV is under sanction in Ukraine since 2017. The manager of the Gazprom Media Holding, NTV Plyus o.o;o., the company operating the pay-TV platform on Eutelsat satellites is a subsidiary of the JSC NTV Broadcasting Company.

The 20 June 2017, OFAC listed Transneft - Media OOO, which operates in the Motion Picture and Video Industries industry. This is a subsidiary of Joint Stock Company Transneft (Транснефть) is a state-controlled pipeline transport company headquartered in Moscow, Russia. It is the largest oil pipeline company in the world. Alexei Navalny, who was a minority shareholder Navalny posted an audit indicating a contracting fraud that had cost Transneft US$4 billion. Both Transneft and the government auditing office, whose documents Navalny said he leaked on his site, denied the corruption claim. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for an investigation into the allegations. All facts of theft and fraud were confirmed by the company management. 

 

The 22 December 2017, OFAC listed NOVYI VEK - MEDIA which operates in the Newspaper Publishers sector. The ban was related to the one of Ruben Tatulyan  and other suspected criminal bosses from Russia’s oldest and most infamous crime syndicate -  the so-called “Vory v Zakone” (Thieves-in-Law), listed for “its involvement in serious transnational criminal activities.”

 

The 28 January 2018, OFAC listed MEDIA-INVEST OOO, a subsidiary of the hydrocarbure group Surgutneftegas. Surgutneftegas directly owned 12.33% of the main Russia, media group NMG, and owned 8.71% via LLC Media-Invest,

 

The OFAC listed the 30 september 2019 the famous INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC , known as the "Saint-Petersburg troll factory" Foreign Interference in a U.S. Election.

Sanctions were taken the 11 January 2021 against 4 pro-Russian Internet publishing companies established in Ukraine for Foreign Interference in U.S. Election Designations.

1.2. The sanctions against 3 television companies (8 May 2022)

 

As far as we are aware, the only one at this step against broadcasting companies are the sanctions taken the 8 May against 3 Russian television companies, Joint Stock Company Channel One Russia, Television Station Russia-1, Joint Stock Company NTV Broadcasting Company

The 8th May 2022, the leaders of the G7 issued a declaration including a statement on the fight against Russian propaganda : "We will continue our efforts to fight off the Russian regime’s attempts to spread its propaganda. Respectable private companies should not provide revenue to the Russian regime or to its affiliates feeding the Russian war machine."

This statement was followend by a complementary statement by Anthony Blinken US Secretary of State :  "In addition, the Treasury Department is designating Russia-1, Channel One, and NTV, all of which are directly or indirectly state-owned and controlled media within Russia, spreading disinformation to bolster Putin’s war. These television stations have been among the largest recipients of foreign revenue, which feeds back to the Russian state. The United States remains a steadfast champion for media freedom."

The decision to levy sanctions against Russian TV broadcasting companies was announced the same day  by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

"Today, OFAC is designating three of Russia’s most highly viewed state-owned television stations pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the GoR. All three stations are directly or indirectly state-owned and controlled and have been among the largest recipients of foreign advertising revenue, which is fed back to the Russian state. 

The three state-owned and controlled networks OFAC designated today are: 

  • Joint Stock Company Channel One Russia 

  • Television Station Russia-1 

  • Joint Stock Company NTV Broadcasting Company"

The list is a bit strange as it mix in reality two companies and one channel. Television Station Russia-1 is a channel provided by the state owned company VGRTK.
 

 

Implementation by US satellite companies and back-up by Russian satellite operators

 

The US satellites companies Horizons and Intelsat have started the 25 May 2022  to implement US sanctions against the channels of the Russian State company, VGTRK. Rossiya 1 and Rossiya 24 are off the air on Intelsat 15 at 85,2 ° E the 23th May 2022. Telekanal Zvezda has been taken off the air on Horizons 2H at 84,8 °E ; Both satellites broadcast the Russian pay-TV Telekarta, a platform with 3 million subscribers operated by the Russian company Orion.

Telekanal Zvezda is not a channel provided by VGTRK but by The Russian Armed Force Broadcasting Company Zvezda, owned by the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Few days after the switch-off by Intelsat and Horizons,   Orion announced that it has completed the creation of a backup technical platform on the Ekspress 80 satellite at 80°E, owned and operated by the FSUE Kosmicheskaya Svyaz (RSCC Space Communications). The new and modern satellite, which has been operational since March 2021, has technical characteristics and standards close to its own current technical platform. This will allow for maximum compatibility in transitioning to the backup platform for both subscribers and broadcasters. Orion adds that the backup of all Russian must-carry channels and, in total 190 channels was established on the new satellite. It concludes by saying that so far 220 TV channels from the Telekarta packages have ben backed up. The remaining 30 will be by the end of June. Ekpress 80 spacecraft is designed by ISS Reshetnev Company in cooperation with Thales Alenia Space. Satellite was launched into orbit on July 31, 2020 and put into operation on March 15, 2021. Test broadcasting confirmed the unique orbital location of this board, high energy and its uniform distribution. It is noted that the technical characteristics and standards of Express-80 are close to the current technical platform of Orion. According to the company, this should ensure maximum compatibility with the existing fleet of receiving equipment and a comfortable transition to the operation of a backup platform for subscribers and broadcasters. (Cableman, 1.6. 2022Broadband TV News, 3.6.2022)

Threat of retaliation

The 6th June 2020 Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova met with representatives of a dozen U.S. media outlets in Moscow. According to a journalist with knowledge of the meeting, she made clear "that if the U.S. government doesn't change its attitude toward Russian journalists working in the United States, Russia will carry out similar action against us. "During the meeting, Zakharova (said that) accreditation and, by extension, visas would be extended for only three months, and if the U.S. doesn't improve its current treatment of Russian journalists, they would ban us from working in Russia," the journalist added" (VOA, 6.6.2022)

2. Sanctions concerning individuals (asset freezes, travel ban)

 

It is not possible to systematically identify the Russian media personalities who are subject to sanctions in the United States. We can, however, quote:

  • Konstantin MALOFEYYEV 

  • Dmitry PESKOV

  • Natalya Aleksandrovna TYURINA

  • Alisher USMANOV

  • Alexander ZHAROV

-  Konstantin MALOFEYYEV

OFAC first designated Malofeyev in 2014 pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in, or for having engaged in, actions or polices that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; and for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. Malofeyev has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU), Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (UK).

In the media field, the Russia-based company Tsargrad OOO (Tsargrad) is a cornerstone of Malofeyev’s broad malign influence network. Tsargrad spreads pro-Kremlin propaganda and disinformation that is amplified by the GoR. Tsargrad served as an intermediary organization between pro-Russian European politicians and GoR officials, and recently pledged to donate more than $10 million to support Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. Tsargrad was designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Malofeyev. 

Among the companies or organisation of the Tsagard group are :

  • All-Russian Public Organization Society for the Promotion of Russian Historical Development Tsargrad (Tsargrad Society)

  • Teshilovo OOO and Spetsinvestservis OOO (Spetsinvestservis) were designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Malofeyev.

  • Imenie Tsargrad OOO (Imenie), Tsargrad-Media OOO (Tsargrad-Media), and Russia-occupied Crimea-based Kurort Livadiya OOO were designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Tsargrad.

  • Tsargrad Park OOO (Tsargrad Park), Kurort Tsargrad Spas-Teshilovo OOO, Zareche-Oka OOO, Proizvodstvenno-Stroitelnaya Kompaniya SNM, Imperiya 19-31 OOO (Imperiya), and Ekoferma Zareche OOO were designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Imenie.

  • Tsargrad-Kultura OOO was designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Tsargrad-Media.

  • Kontur OOO and Tureya OOO were designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Imperiya. 

Various persons working for the Tsagrad group were listed by OFAC including : Natalya Aleksandrovna TYURINA, (Cyrillic: ТЮРИНА, Наталья Александровна), designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of Tsargrad-Media and Tsargrad Park. 

- Dmitry PESKOV

(from Faces of Kremlin Propaganda: Dmitri Peskov, US Department of State, 18.4.2022)

Dmitri Peskov has served as Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson since 2008. On March 3, the United States imposed sanctions on Peskov. Australia, Canada, and the European Union (EU) have also sanctioned Peskov. On March 11, the U.S. Department of the Treasury also sanctioned three of Peskov’s immediate family members, who live luxurious lifestyles incongruous with Peskov’s civil servant salary, and likely built on the ill-gotten gains from Peskov’s connections to Putin. According to the Department of the Treasury, members of Peskov’s family have a real estate empire worth more than $10 million, a number of luxury vehicles, and travel regularly on private aircraft and yachts.

In his capacity of Putin's spokeman, he has played a key role in propaganda and disinformation campaigns to cover up the Kremlin’s links to the 2006 polonium poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, the 2018 Novichok poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia, and the 2020 Novichok poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In all these cases, official and independent sources have debunked the Kremlin’s disinformation and established the Kremlin’s direct responsibility. Serving Putin has been lucrative for Peskov, and despite being a civil servant for his entire career, he and his family are now multimillionaires

(...) Before Putin launched his unprovoked and brutal war of choice against Ukraine, Peskov repeatedly denied Russia had any intentions to invade its neighbor. He falsely asserted that Russia did not pose a threat to Ukraine, that Russia had never attacked any other nation, and that Russia would be the “last country in Europe” to think about starting a war. Attempting to discredit Western media reports that exposed the Kremlin’s invasion preparations, Peskov called them “provocations,” an “unfounded fomenting of tension,” “Western hysteria,” “irresponsible fakes,” and “maniacal information insanity.” Russia’s war in Ukraine validated the media reports and undermined Peskov’s credibility.

Whitewashing the Kremlin’s Atrocities in Ukraine

As Russian military forces withdraw from parts of Ukraine and redeploy elsewhere, the world is learning about the Kremlin’s atrocities across the country. Human Rights Watch and other independent sources have documented many instances of summary executions, mass rapes, and looting of civilian property, concluding that Russian military forces were committing war crimes. In Bucha and many other suburbs of Kyiv, graphic evidence of widespread murders and torture of civilians has emerged, with some shot at close range, and others with their hands tied or their flesh burned.

Despite these clear, factual, and irrefutable accounts, Peskov has been one of the key implementers of the Kremlin’s standard disinformation playbook of denial, lies, and obfuscation. The Kremlin reacted to the global outcry following evidence its forces committed war crimes in Bucha by first denying any involvement in the massacre, and then propagating several false narratives to hide the truth. Echoing disinformation from Russia’s Ministry of Defense that “not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions” under Russian occupation, Peskov claimed that the “calendar sequence of events do not testify in favor of these allegations.” He said the accusations were “groundless,” describing the discovery of the mass killings as a “well-staged tragic show” and “a forgery in order to try to denigrate the Russian army.” Even after The New York Times and Reuters independently confirmed that civilians in Bucha had been killed when Russian forces were controlling the town, based on a review of videos and satellite images, Peskov insisted that the killings were a “result of a staged falsification.” On April 5, The New York Times published a video taken in early March showing Russian armored vehicles firing several high-caliber rounds at a bicyclist in Bucha. Independent analysts and other media outlets have also debunked Russia’s disinformation about the Bucha atrocities.

-  Alisher USMANOV

Politically connected Uzbek-Russian billionaire Usmanov has for decades invested heavily in tech firms in Russia and elsewhere while keeping close connections to the Russian political elite. During the early days of Facebook’s growth as a social media firm, Kanton Services, a firm with links to Usmanov provided a link between Russian state money and large early investments in Facebook, according to reporting from 2017 that was a part of the Paradise Papers. The leaked records reviewed by ICIJ indicate that all of Kanton’s shares were owned as recently as 2009 by an investment manager who is known as an Usmanov business associate. (Source : Spencer Woodman, As the West takes aim with Russian sanctions, here’s what we know about oligarchs’ secret finances, International Consortoim of Investigative Journalists, 17.2.2022)

- Alexander ZHAROV

When he was listed by the OFAC, the 6 April 2018, Alexander Zharov is the head of Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media).  Zharov is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13661 for being an official of the Government of the Russian Federation. Since then, Zharov left this functions and became the CEO of the Gazprom Media Holding, which owns NTV and NTV Plus,  one of the two pay-TV platfom client of Eutelsat S.A. He is also on the Canada,  UK and Australian  black lists.  His name is also is also on the list proposed for sanctions by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to the Ukraine Government.

3. Regulation of activities

 

OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions Regulations 31 CFR part 587 GENERAL LICENSE NO. 25B Authorizing Transactions Related to Telecommunications and Certain Internet-Based Communications  (2 June 2022)

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#StratComDC: Ms. Lyudmila Savchuk on Infiltrating the Internet Research AgencyInternet activist Ms. Lyudmila Savchuk recounts her experiences infiltrating the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, now widely known as a "troll farm" spreading disinformation around the world.

Russian Internet Research Agency Network Visualization

Alexa Pavliuc

This is a network visualization of an information operation on Twitter which originated in Russia through the Internet Research Agency.

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Beam of the satellite Ekspress 80 at 80°E 

(Source : RSCC)

DOJ unveils charges against Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, CNBC, 7.4.2022

Qui est l'oligarque russe Konstantin Malofeev, proche des Le Pen ?, Brut, 22.4.2022

CNN's Christiane Amanpour presses Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov on the Russian invasion and whether they are achieving their objectives in Ukraine., CNN News, 23.3.2022

From plastic bag to a MultiBillion dollar empire - Alisher Usmanov.

Lecture by the head of Roskomnadzor Alexander Zharov

Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University

On February 9, at the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov, a lecture was held by the head of the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor), Alexander Alexandrovich Zharov. He spoke about the current situation in the main areas of work of the department.


After the main part, students asked questions in writing, but for this they were asked to indicate their names and surnames - the organizers explained that journalists should not hide.