On October 19, the Department of Justice announced charges against Elena Khusyaynova, a St. Petersburg-based accountant, for working as part of a conspiracy to wage “information warfare against the United States of America.” According to the FBI, Khusyaynova worked as the chief accountant for “Project Lakhta,” a Russian interference operation targeting citizens in the United States, EU, Ukraine, and Russia. The new charges confirm many assessments of the conduct and strategy behind Russia’s Internet Research Agency, and also highlight several key aspects of the Kremlin’s ongoing influence campaign in the United States.
One key aspect of Project Lakhta’s manipulation efforts is that they span the U.S. political spectrum. As described by the FBI, members of Project Lakhta “did not exclusively adopt one ideological viewpoint,” and instead “wrote on topics from varied and sometimes opposing perspectives.” Additionally, members of the Project developed strategies and issued guidance “to target audiences with conservative and liberal viewpoints,” often seizing on arguments on both sides of an issue or event to radicalize conversation. While one fake persona, “Bertha Malone,” led a Facebook group calling for stricter immigration laws, another, “Helen Christopherson,” engaged with American activists to organize protests calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Project members even targeted specific political campaigns, decrying and supporting candidates from both major political parties. The charges are a reminder that the Kremlin does not advocate for a Republican or a Democrat-led United States, it seeks a divided and weakened U.S. society.Read more