US Treasury Amending FSB Sanctions Looks Like Attempt to Find 'Graceful Way Out'

The US Department of the Treasury has authorized certain transactions with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) which was sanctioned for its alleged involvement in cyberattacks against the United States. Russian lawmaker Lyudmila Bokova said that the Trump team appears to be looking for ways to resolve the issue.

"This looks like Christmas sales or an attempt to find a graceful way out since allegations with regard to cyberattacks have not been confirmed," she said. Bokova, chairperson of the Russian parliament' upper house commission on information society development, added that both countries need to understand that they will only be able to tackle cyber threats if they build trust and joint efforts.

On December 29, the Obama administration imposed fresh sanctions against six Russian individuals and five entities, including the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and the Federal Security Service (FSB), over Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election in the US. Additional measures included the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closure of two Russian diplomatic compounds.

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Russian leadership described these steps as provocations aimed at further undermining already complicated US-Russian relations. However, Vladimir Putin refrained from taking reciprocal steps.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied that Moscow had anything to do with hack attacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and was not involved in any attempts to influence political process in the United States.

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued the amendment to Obama's sanctions on February 2, giving the green light to "certain transactions" that are "necessary and ordinarily incident to requesting certain licenses and authorizations for the importation, distribution, or use of certain information technology products" in Russia.

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The agency specified that US companies are allowed to pay the FSB up to $5,000 per year for permits and licenses. The license also authorizes transactions and activities that are necessary to comply with law enforcement actions or investigations involving the FSB.

The same day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the step should not be viewed as sanctions relief. "We're not easing sanctions," he told reporters. "It is, from what I understand, a regular course of action that Treasury does quite often when sanctions are imposed."

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