Federal prosecutors in Virginia on Friday unsealed a complaint against a Russian national for trying to interfere in United States elections, including the 2018 midterms.
In the complaint filed Sept. 28, 2018, the federal government charged Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova with conspiracy to defraud the United States over her alleged work managing the finances of “Project Lakhta,” which prosecutors claim was a Russian effort to “spread distrust towards candidates for political office and the political system in general.”
Khusyaynova and Project Lakhta are tied to the Russian agencies named in special counsel Robert Mueller’s July federal indictment in Washington, D.C., against 12 Russian nationals for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Project Lakhta allegedly spent millions of dollars on its influence campaign in the U.S. and elsewhere over the course of a few years. According to the complaint, between January 2016 and June 2018, the project had a proposed budget of more than $35 million, though not all of that was spent on operations in the U.S. The Russians tried to hide these activities by classifying expenditures for Project Lakhta as software support and development, the complaint alleges.
Through Project Lakhta, Russians sought to use information warfare to undermine the U.S. political system, according to the complaint. This included posing as Americans to operate social media pages that discussed divisive political issues and pages that opposed or supported specific candidates, the complaint alleges. They also organized rallies and counter protests, per the complaint.
“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement accompanying the newly unsealed complaint.
The Russians allegedly involved in the effort were focused on topics like immigration, gun control, the Confederate flag and aimed to “effectively aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population,” according to the complaint. They also allegedly focused on events like the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and specific mass shootings, the complaint alleges. The conspirators also allegedly crafted guidance on how to react to specific news articles in a divisive manner, per the complaint. In one example offered in the complaint, Project Lakhta ordered that they should react to Sen. John McCain’s opposition to President Trump’s border wall by describing McCain as “an old geezer who has lost it.”
Read the complaint against Khusyaynova: