Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Russian Woman Charged with US Election Interference

Russian Woman Charged with US Election Interference

The charges announced today centered on a conspiracy that included the creation of thousands of social media and email accounts that appeared to be run by US persons as part of what the conspirators referred to as "information warfare against the United States".

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".

The Internet Research Agency "tampered with, altered, or caused a misappropriation of information with the objective 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.

The indictment said Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova was involved in a criminal conspiracy as the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, a broad political interference operation in the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.

Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a statement charges against Khusyaynova highlighted "threats to our democracy" from propaganda campaigns. She is not now in US custody.

Among the records she allegedly managed were "detailed expenses for activities in the United States, such as expenditures for activists, advertisements on social media platforms, registration of domain names, the purchase of proxy servers, and 'promoting news postings on social networks, '" the news release said.

Between 2016 and 2018, Project Lakhta's proposed operating budget exceeded $35 million, although only a portion of that money targeted the USA, prosecutors said.

In July, Mueller's office also indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers who were accused of hacking Democratic computer networks as part of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

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 USA presidential race, boost Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, and disparage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. What remains to be seen is how and whether Mueller can connect President Trump or his campaign to those efforts.

The officials have cited largely public steps taken by China, such as aiming tariffs at politically important states and pressuring US businesses to speak out against the Trump administration.

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. They also distribute propaganda and plant disinformation against political candidates, the departments said. The Justice Department's recent report, though, noted that "public exposure and attribution of foreign influence operations can be an important means of countering the threat and rendering those operations less effective". "You know, they go after some hacker in Russian Federation they say oh, that had nothing to do with my campaign".

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