A Russian woman has been charged with interfering with American elections – including the upcoming midterms – through an online propaganda effort aimed at swaying US voters.
Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, has been charged with conspiracy to interfere with the US political system, according to a complaint from the Department of Justice (DoJ) which has been unsealed in Alexandria, Virginia.
Using social media and other avenues, the participants waged “information warfare against the United States,” attempting to sow distrust of candidates for US political office, the complaint alleges.
The DoJ alleges that Ms Khusyaynova was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, which it said was funded by Russian oligarch Evgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.
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 2016 presidential race, boost then-candidate Donald Trump and disparage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Mr Prigozhin, who was among those personally charged by Mr Mueller’s investigation into election meddling and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials, has been dubbed “Putin’s cook” by Russian media because his catering business has organised banquets for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior political figures. He has also previously been hit with sanctions by the US government.
In July, Mr 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 election.
The charging of Ms Khusyaynova comes as intelligence agencies warned that they remain concerned about attempts by Russia, China, Iran and other foreign groups to interfere with the midterm elections on 6 November and the next presidential election in 2020.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security said they do not have any evidence that anyone went far enough to prevent voting or change vote counts. Some state and local governments, which run polling sites, have reported attempts to access their networks, but officials were able to “prevent access or quickly mitigate these attempts,” the agencies said in a joint statement.