(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. imposed sanctions Thursday on four Ukrainian nationals it says are “pawns” working with Russia’s spy agencies to destabilize their country, as the Biden administration tries to head off an invasion it says could happen at any moment.

“Today’s action is intended to target, undermine, and expose Russia’s ongoing destabilization effort in Ukraine,” The Treasury Department said in a statement. “This action is separate and distinct from the broad range of high impact measures the United States and its allies and partners are prepared to impose in order to inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system if it were to further invade Ukraine.”

The Treasury Department sanctions target two members of Ukraine’s Parliament and two former officials who are trying to undermine their own government to lay the groundwork for a Russian takeover, according to U.S. officials who briefed reporters on the customary condition of anonymity. They said the Ukrainians also helped spread destabilizing information in the 2020 U.S. presidential election campaign.

Those sanctioned were Parliament members Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn and former officials Volodymyr Oliynyk and Vladimir Sivkovich, according to Treasury.

President Joe Biden cited ongoing disinformation efforts by the FSB, the Russian spy agency, in a news conference on Wednesday. “They have FSB people in Ukraine now trying to undermine the solidarity within Ukraine about Russia and to try to promote Russian interest,” he said.

The new penalties are a minor step compared to the massive financial punishment the U.S. has threatened to inflict on Russia should President Vladimir Putin invade Ukraine after massing 100,000 troops at the border of the former Soviet republic.

 

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