Russian charged with conspiring to interfere in US congressional elections

Cheryl Sanders
October 20, 2018

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, was the chief accountant of a Russian operation called "Project Lakhta", which was "funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering", a news release said.

The Justice Department on Friday charged Elena Khusyaynova, 44, who is not in U.S. custody, with conspiracy for allegedly managing a $10 million, oligarch-funded scheme to manipulate United States voters through social media ads and web postings, much of it involving misinformation.

Topics discussed included gun control, gay rights, the women's march, and the debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, the outlet reported, as well as talking about the Las Vegas shooting and the Charlottesville rally. In an odd bit of timing, the indictment was announced just minutes after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence expressed concernthat China, Iran and Russian Federation could seek to undermine confidence in the November 6 midterm elections, when control of the US Congress is up for grabs.

The social media effort outlined by prosecutors Friday largely mirrors Mueller's criminal case against three Russian companies, including the Internet Research Agency, and 13 Russians, including one is a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Khusyaynova is a resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, and is not in USA custody.

"Increased intelligence and information sharing among federal, state and local partners has improved our awareness of ongoing and persistent threats to election infrastructure", ODNI said in a joint statement with the FBI, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, marks the first foreign meddling case in the upcoming USA elections. "These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. Elections".

Justice Department officials believe she helped manage the finances of Project Lakhta, a branch of the Kremlin's foreign influence operations.

The Internet Research Agency "tampered with, altered, or caused a misappropriation of information with the goal or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions", specifically the 2016 United States presidential race, the Treasury Department said earlier this year.

Prosecutors say Khusyaynova worked for the same social media troll farm that was indicted earlier this year by Mueller.

In this photo from June 21, 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington.

China has denied that it is interfering in United States affairs.

The statement accuses "Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran" of engaging in influence operations "including using social media to amplify divisive issues, sponsoring specific content in English-language media like RT and Sputnik, seeding disinformation through sympathetic spokespersons regarding political candidates and disseminating foreign propaganda".

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