US indicts Russian over attempt to interfere in November election

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova is accused of taking part in a Kremlin-backed plan to conduct 'information warfare'.

    The 44-year-old faces accusations of attempting to influence next month's mid-term election [File: J Scott Applewhite/Reuters]
    The 44-year-old faces accusations of attempting to influence next month's mid-term election [File: J Scott Applewhite/Reuters]

    The US government has charged a Russian national with playing a key financial role in a Kremlin-backed plan to conduct "information warfare" against the United States, including to influence next month's congressional elections.

    The criminal complaint unsealed on Friday makes 44-year-old Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova the first individual to be indicted for attempting to interfere in the November elections, according to a government official with knowledge of the matter. 

    The complaint said 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 US presidential race, boost Donald Trump and disparage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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    The case against Khusyaynova was unsealed in Alexandria, Virginia, and is not being handled by Mueller because it includes activities related to the 2018 elections, which are not part of his remit, the official familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency.

    Using social media and other avenues, the conspiracy participants waged "information warfare against the United States", attempting to sow distrust of candidates for US political office and the US political system, according to the complaint.

    Prigozhin, who was among those personally charged by Mueller, has been dubbed "[Vladimir] Putin's cook" by Russian media because his catering business has organised banquets for Russia's president and other senior political figures. 

    2018 election meddling fears

    Meanwhile, US law enforcement and intelligence agencies said on Friday they remain concerned about attempts by Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign groups to interfere with the November 6 congressional elections, as well as the 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 as far as 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.

    In July, 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 US election.

    SOURCE: News agencies