Russian Woman Arrested for Election Interference

April FrancisOct 21, 2018

The Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow.

The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 US election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming Midterms.

Investigating Russian interference in USA elections has largely been the purview of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III - though his probe is focused on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

She allegedly spent millions in an operation called Project Lakhta, buying advertising on social media, acquiring internet domain names, and pushing "news postings on social networks".

The group is operating to this day, the indictment alleges, and seeks to "sow division and discord in the US political system, including by creating social and political polarization, undermining faith in democratic institutions, and influence USA elections".

The proposed operating budget for "Project Lahtka" that Khusyaynova billed between January 2016 and June 2018, according to the complaint, was $35 million; $10 million was billed just between January 2018 and June 2018.

The feds said that the campaign focused on "a wide variety of topics, including immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women's March, and the NFL national anthem debate".

Project Lakhta has a budget of $35m, but not all of their projects are directed at the United States, according to officials.

The Russian organizers of the conspiracy advised that the posts should reflect various viewpoints, and they gave specific instructions to only share articles from certain news websites to correspond to specific political views, prosecutors said.

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"Russian disinformation efforts are ongoing and sophisticated, and they are intent on dividing us and weakening our society and political system", said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

The Khusyaynova case shows "in detail that when we talk about Russian interference it is not something in history it is now", Carlin said.

Officials say the alleged "conspiracy" sought to pit Americans against each other.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating potential collusion between people connected to U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian Federation.

The organization is allegedly funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, who is also known as "Putin's chef". The group was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller in February.

Mr Prigozhin, who has been dubbed "Putin's cook" due to the banquets he has organised for the Russian leader, has previously been targeted by U.S. sanctions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said recently that Russia has no intention of interfering in the midterm elections.

This comes after U.S. intelligence officials said they feared "ongoing campaigns" by Russia, China, Iran and other states to influence USA voters.

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.

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