US Indicts Another Russian for Role in Info Warfare Campaign

The US authorities have charged another Russian national as part of the ongoing conspiracy to interfere in its political system and attempt to undermine democracy.

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg is alleged to serve as the chief accountant of what the DoJ has dubbed “Project Lakhta” — an effort funded by oligarch Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and two of his companies Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.

The self-styled “information warfare” effort she is alleged to have worked on had a proposed operating budget for January 2016-June 2018 of $35m, covering activities in the US, Europe, Ukraine and domestically.

Expenses she processed included payments to activists, and for social media ads, domain name registration, proxy servers and “promoting news postings” on social networks, according to the DoJ.

“Extraordinary” steps were apparently taken by the conspirators to appear as if they were everyday American voters, such as using VPNs to hide their true location and registering faked social media accounts to amplify divisive messages — using news events such as police shootings and right-wing rallies to spread further social and political discord.

Most of this is known already, from the testimony of social media companies before Congress and the DoJ’s indictment in February of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies, off the back of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

However, the new indictment signals the continued work of the DoJ in highlighting Russian efforts to destabilize its political system, even if Khusyaynova is unlikely ever to stand trial. These efforts are also ongoing, as the DoJ mentions $10m has been allocated for the period January-June 2018, ahead of crucial US mid-term elections next month.

“This case serves as a stark reminder to all Americans: Our foreign adversaries continue their efforts to interfere in our democracy by creating social and political division, spreading distrust in our political system, and advocating for the support or defeat of particular political candidates,” said FBI director Christopher Wray.

“We take all threats to our democracy very seriously, and we’re committed to working with our partners to identify and stop these unlawful influence operations. Together, we must remain diligent and determined to protect our democratic institutions and maintain trust in our electoral process.”

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