The US Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint on Friday charging Russian national Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova for her role in a conspiracy to interfere with US elections, starting in 2014 and through the upcoming November 6 midterms.
The charges allege Khusyaynova took part in a massive Russian influence campaign, through her role as chief accountant of “Project Lakhta,” managing the financing of operations, foreign influence activities directed at the US. According to the complaint, Project Lakhta’s purpose in the US was to spread distrust towards candidates for political office and the political system in general—beginning in mid-2014, and including the 2016 presidential election.
“The Conspiracy has a strategic goal, which continues to this day, to sow division and discord in the US political system, including by creating social and political polarization, [and] undermining faith in democratic institutions,” the complaint states.
The organization allegedly worked toward this goal through taking extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists, such as creating thousands of social media and email accounts that appeared to be operated by US persons, gaining thousands of followers, and amplifying divisive, politically charged content on 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. The accounts would take advantage of specific events in particular, including the 2015 Charleston church shooting, Las Vegas concert shooting, Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, and others.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said, “Americans disagree in good faith on all manner of issues, and we will protect their right to do so. Unlawful foreign interference with these debates debases their democratic integrity, and we will make every effort to disrupt it and hold those involved accountable.”
The complaint does not allege Khusyaynova or the Project had any effect on the outcome of any election.