Russian Woman Charged with Attempted Election Interference

midterm elections

A Russian national was charged by the Department of Justice on Friday for allegedly funding online propaganda campaigns to influence the upcoming November midterms as part of a wider conspiracy to hurt American democracy.

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, Russia, is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States for managing the online troll operation including the Internet Research Agency that was charged for crimes by special counsel Robert Mueller,  CNN reports.

According to prosecutors, in the period between December 2016 and May 2018, the woman made efforts to further Russian attempts to “inflame passions” online concerning issues such as gun control, LGBT rights, the NFL National Anthem debate and immigration.

The prosecutors’ complaint notes that the social media efforts particularly focused on the shootings of church members in Charleston, South Carolina, and concert attendees in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, where one counterprotester died.

The Russian online manipulation, the complaint adds, were mainly aimed at the Republican Party and its most well-known leaders. In one effort, for example, the Russians attempted to present House Speaker Paul Ryan as “a complete and absolute nobody incapable of any decisiveness.”

They also aimed some of their efforts towards Mueller, calling him “a puppet of the establishment.”

The complaint comes at a time when U.S. intelligence officials warn of foreign influence campaigns and sends a dire message to voters on the scope of the efforts to sway U.S. opinion, The Hill writes.

“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 joint statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security said.

Prosecutors stressed the effort had an operating budget of $35 million and was reportedly funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and his companies. It has “a strategic goal…to sow division and discord in the U.S. political system…by creating social and political polarization,” the complaint read.

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