Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Russian woman CHARGED with conspiring to interfere in U.S. elections

Russian woman CHARGED with conspiring to interfere in U.S. elections

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, an operation started in 2014 that amplified news articles and social media posts by pushing them wider and posted links to domestic media with specific messages attacking individuals and political parties, among other tactics.

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

An array of issues, such as immigration, gun control and the NFL national anthem debate, were allegedly brought up in online discussions by the conspirators, who were told "to create "political intensity through supporting radical groups" and to 'aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population, '" the news release said. "These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 US elections", the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement.

Concord Management is owned by Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, also known as "Putin's chef", who is closely linked to the Russian president. Khusyaynova is a foreign national who lives in St. Petersburg, and she was not in custody.

The Justice Department unsealed the criminal complaint on the same day that USA intelligence agencies, in a rare public statement, asserted that Russia, China, Iran and other countries are engaged in continuous efforts to influence American policy and voters in the upcoming elections and beyond.

It is believed to be the first federal case alleging Russian interference in this year's election.

The statement went on to say, "These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision-making in the 2018 and 2020 USA elections".

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Concord Management and Concord Catering were among the three entities and 13 Russian individuals who were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller's office in February in an alleged criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper with the US presidential race, boost Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, and disparage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Intelligence officials said a year ago that Russian Federation sought to influence the 2016 presidential election through similar means.

The agencies said they now do not have any evidence that voting systems have been disrupted or compromised in ways that could result in changing vote counts or hampering the ability to tally votes in the midterms, which are fewer than 20 days away.

But so far, they said, state and local officials have been able to prevent access or quickly mitigate these attempts.

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

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said his country has no intention to interfere in the midterm elections in the USA or meddle elsewhere.

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