Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg, Russia, has become the first person charged by the United States for conspiring to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, CBS News reported.
U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger, of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in the indictment on Friday that the Russian national participated in a conspiracy to disrupt the U.S. political system and undermine faith in the nation’s democratic institutions
According to USA Today, the 44-year-old, who is not in the custody of the United States, allegedly served as a chief accountant for a disruption campaign funded by businessman Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, who is a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Although the case involved Russian election interference, the charges were not brought by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who currently leads the inquiry into Russia’s election meddling.
Earlier this year, Mueller’s team indicted 13 Russians, including Prigozhin, stemming from a political interference effort that involved an internet firm with ties to the Kremlin.
Prigozhin was not charged on Friday, but two of the companies he controlled, Concord Catering and Concord Management and Consulting LLC, were included in the list of those that assisted in the case that involved Khusyaynova.
Khusyaynova is charged with managing the finances of Project Lakhta, the $35 million campaign that targeted the United States, among other countries, in an influence operation that funded activists, promotion and advertising on social media, and registration of domain names.
The prosecutors said that the project involved associates who made it appear they were ordinary American political activists with the help of virtual private networks. The accounts were allegedly used to create and amplify divisive social and political content that targeted audiences in the United States.
John Demers, chief of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, described this alleged Russian campaign as an attack on the American democracy.
“These accounts also were used to advocate for the election or electoral defeat of particular candidates in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections,” the government alleged. “Some social media accounts posted tens of thousands of messages, and had tens of thousands of followers.”
Federal authorities said that in the first six months of this year alone, the operating budget of the Project Lakhta campaign totaled more than $10 million.
The charges, however, did not include allegations that Khusyaynova, or the broader conspiracy, had an effect on any election results. The complaint also refutes that an American knowingly participated in the Project Lakhta operation.