Justice Department Charges Russian Woman With US Election Interference

Russian woman charged with political interference in next month's midterm elections

Russian woman charged with political interference in next month's midterm elections

The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 USA election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming Midterms.

They allegedly focused on such topics as immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women's March, and the NFL national anthem debate.

Federal prosecutors in Alexandria alleged that she worked on behalf of "Project Lakhta", an organization attempting to "to sow discord in the US political system".

Officials state she was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, an operation started in 2014 and funded by Russian oligarch Evgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in July announced a new policy to alert the public to foreign operations targeting USA democracy, such as the one Russian Federation undertook in 2016.

In that case, Mueller's office cited examples of Russians who adopted online personas and used Twitter and Facebook posts to sow doubts about Clinton, urge voters to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein and galvanize support for then-candidate Donald Trump.

The criminal complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova alleges that Russians are using some of the same techniques to influence US politics as they relied on ahead of the 2016 presidential election, methods laid bare by an investigation from special counsel Robert Mueller into possible coordination between Russia and Donald Trump's campaign.

It also calls on social media users to be "responsible consumers of information" in order to "mitigate adversarial efforts".

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Investigators cite extensive details of the financial workings and internal communications from Project Lakhta, suggesting that USA investigators either exfiltrated or intercepted data from the operation.

It lays out her budgeting for Project Lakhta month by month for the first half of 2018, with a total of more than 650 million rubles, or $10 million, requested for the program.

The two companies - Concord Management and Concord Catering - were among three entities and 13 Russian individuals who were indicted by Mr Mueller in February.

Prosecutors say Khusyaynova ran an operation funded by a Russian oligarch whose aim was to "spread distrust towards candidates for US political office and the USA political system" by bombarding social media with divisive messages on issues from immigration to gun control to the National Football League anthem protests.

The indictment does not allege that any American knowingly worked with the Russians.

"The conspirators allegedly took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists", by setting up thousands of accounts made to appear to be owned by Americans, the Justice Department said.

But the statement noted, "We are concerned about ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies".

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