OFAC Sanctions Russian Nationals Ilya Andreevich Gambashidze and Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tupikin for Facilitating Disinformation on Behalf of the Government of Russia, Funds Frozen by Tether

On March 20, 2024, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Russian nationals Ilya Andreevich Gambashidze and Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tupikin, and their respective companies for assisting the Government of the Russian Federation in foreign malign campaigns, including deceiving voters around the world to undermine trust in their governments. OFAC included two USDT addresses in this designation, and Tether has since frozen Gambashidze’s wallets.

This isn’t the first time OFAC has taken action against Russian nationals involved in disinformation campaigns where cryptocurrency was involved. In April 2021, for instance, OFAC designated SouthFront, a disinformation outlet linked to the Federal Security Service (FSB). OFAC also designated The Association for Free Research and International Cooperation (AFRIC), a Yevgeniy Prigozhin front company affiliated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a well-known Russian troll farm involved in interfering with the 2016 presidential election.

In this blog, we’ll explore Gambashidze’s and Tupikin’s operations, including the on-chain activities of their USDT addresses included in today’s OFAC designation. 

Why OFAC sanctioned Gambashidze and Tupikin

Gambashidze is the founder of Russia-based Social Design Agency and Tupikin is the CEO of Russia-based Company Group Structura, LLC. Both of their companies have hired individuals to spread disinformation regarding foreign elections and political conflicts, often at the direction of the Russian government. 

Through combined efforts, the sanctioned individuals tried to influence a foreign election by impersonating European media outlets and government organizations. According to OFAC, toward the end of 2022, Gambashidze and Tupikin had created more than 60 websites to impersonate these organizations, and promoted the sites on social media with the goal of deceiving campaign voters. 

Gambashidze in particular has a history of facilitating disinformation to increase Russia’s foreign influence. In 2023, the Council of the European Union added him to its list of sanctioned individuals for targeting voters in Ukraine and several Western Europe countries. Soon after, he appeared on the U.S. State Department’s radar for spreading false information across Latin America, then turned to propaganda related to the Israel-Hamas war.  

Gambashidze’s on-chain activities

OFAC included two USDT (on the TRON network) addresses associated with Gambashidze: 

  • TEFph7dZoUN5233cGEzF6XFwRpjPF8fQDS
  • TMGLqRQ4twjW8wJhVH1mQR7nUThpGHUsN3

The Chainalysis Reactor graph below shows that Gambashidze’s wallets received more than $200,000 worth of USDT on the TRON network, a significant portion of which came directly from previously-sanctioned Russian exchange Garantex. He then cashed out most of his funds to a single deposit address at a mainstream exchange. These transactions highlight Garantex’s continued involvement in the Russian government’s illicit activities. 

Monitoring Russia’s crypto-related activities

OFAC’s designations today illustrate its commitment to safeguarding United States citizens from illicit actors, disrupting the spread of disinformation and preserving election integrity across the globe. Additionally, we commend Tether for taking quick action in freezing Gambashidze’s wallets to protect the ecosystem from potential exposure to the two addresses. “Tether is not and will not be a tool for illicit activities. Our swift action in freezing the wallets associated with sanctioned individuals demonstrates our proactive approach to safeguarding against misuse. We remain dedicated to upholding the highest standards of compliance and trust within the digital asset space,” said Paolo Ardoino, CEO of Tether.

We have labeled the relevant addresses as associated with the sanctioned entity in our product suite. 

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