The Department of Justice announced on February 16th that a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel office headed by Robert Mueller. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies with committing federal crimes as part of an effort to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election.
According to the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, and engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes. The organization allegedly conducted what the indictment calls “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, allegedly funded the Internet Research Agency through companies he controlled, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, often distributing the funds through affiliates. The influence operation is alleged to have been part of a larger operation called “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta included multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in multiple countries.
The defendants also allegedly recruited and paid unwitting Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The indictment claims the defendants and their co-conspirators posed asAmerican grassroots activists and did not disclose that they were Russian in their communications with any Americans.
The indictment includes eight criminal counts.
There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.
“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the Internet,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed. The Department of Justice will continue to work cooperatively with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and with the Congress, to defend our nation against similar current and future schemes.”