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A grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment by the Special Counsel's Office.
The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called "information warfare against the United States," with the stated goal of "spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general."
According to the allegations in the indictment, 12 of the individual defendants worked at various times for a company called Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg. The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many affiliates and subsidiaries. The conspiracy was 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. Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of people in its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support personnel, with an annual budget of millions of dollars.
Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged into departments including graphics, search engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments.
In 2014, the company established a "translator project" focused on the United States. In July of 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project. Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American influence operations. In order to hide the Russian origins of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located here in the United States in order to set up a virtual private network.