United States indicts Russian woman for interfering in 2018 election

Erika Holt
October 20, 2018

She is not now in USA custody.

The Justice Department has charged a Russian national who is apparently part of a conspiracy to interfere in the US elections, including the upcoming midterms.

It is alleged Ms Khusyaynova was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, which was funded by Russian businessman Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.

The Justice Department disclosed the criminal complaint soon after USA intelligence agencies said in a joint statement that they were concerned about efforts by Russia, China and Iran to influence US voters and policy.

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 two-page statement about foreign influence was issued just weeks before the November 6 elections by the Office of the Department of National Intelligence, the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.

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Between January 2016 and June 2018, Project Lakhta had a proposed operating budget of more than $35 million for all of its operations, including those directed at the United States. A criminal complaint filed against the woman charges that she managed the finances of Project Lakhta, including detailed expenses for activities in the USA such as paying for activists, advertisements on social media, registering domain names, the purchase of proxy servers, and promoting news postings on social media.

The criminal complaint 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.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating potential collusion between people connected to U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian Federation. US officials have warned repeatedly about foreign attempts to influence the 2018 Midterms.

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.

Since at least 2015, the group created thousands of false social media profiles and email accounts that appeared to be from people inside the US and were aimed to "create and amplify divisive social and political content", including on significant current events, such as deadly shootings in SC and Las Vegas, prosecutors said in court papers. 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".

The agencies say the "ongoing campaigns" could take many forms.

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