Russian charged with United States election meddling

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The indictment said Ms Khusyaynova, the finance chief of Russia's leading troll farm, Project Lakhta, was involved in a criminal conspiracy and had allocated funding for US-directed meddling and influence efforts.

The charges, filed Friday in the Eastern District of Virginia, accuse Elena A. Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg with using social media platforms to create thousands of social media and e-mail accounts - appearing to be from USA persons - to "create and amplify divisive social media and political content". In an odd bit of timing, the indictment was announced just minutes after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence expressed concernthat China, Iran and Russian Federation could seek to undermine confidence in the November 6 midterm elections, when control of the US Congress is up for grabs.

According to NBC, the oligarch is Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as Russian President Vladimir Putin's "chef" and who ran the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.

Khusyaynova is a resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, and is not in USA custody.

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

A USA indictment charging a Russian national with playing a prominent role in a Kremlin-backed plan to conduct "information warfare" to influence the US midterm elections suggested that Russian influence operations have become more sophisticated since a campaign to impact the US 2016 presidential election.

Foreign countries are using social media to amplify divisive issues in American society by sponsoring content in English-language media, such as Russia's RT and Sputnik news outlets, the statement said.

Given the breadth of alleged interference by Russian Federation, which includes the hacking of Democratic email accounts ahead of the 2016 presidential election, it was notable that the intelligence community identified two other nations in the same statement that did not provide specific examples of foreign meddling. They also distribute propaganda and plant disinformation against political candidates, the departments said. The case is not being brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.

"Currently, we do not have any evidence of a compromise or disruption of infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts or disrupt our ability to tally votes in the midterm elections", the agencies said.

But they said, "Some state and local governments have reported attempts to access their networks, which often include online voter registration databases, using tactics that are available to state and nonstate cyber actors".

Far more hacking activity occurred ahead of the 2016 presidential election.