Thirteen Russians have been criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump, the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced on Friday. Mueller’s office said 13 Russians and three Russian entities, including the notorious state-backed “troll farm” the Internet Research Agency, had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington DC. A 37-page indictment alleged that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic opponent. Mueller alleged that Russian operatives “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign”, but the indictment did not address the question of whether anyone else in Trump’s team had knowingly colluded. … The Russians allegedly posed as Americans to operate bogus social media accounts, buy advertisements and stage political rallies. They stole the identities of real people in the US to post online and built computer systems in the US to hide the Russian origin of their activity, according prosecutors..
“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet,” said Rosenstein. He alleged that the Russians had “worked to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” adding: “We must not allow them to succeed.”
The charges state that from as far back as 2014, the defendants conspired together to defraud the US by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of government” through interference with the American political and electoral processes.
One defendant, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is accused of using companies he controlled – including Concord Management and Consulting, and Concord Catering – to finance the operations against the US. The operation at one stage had a monthly budget of $1.25m, according to Mueller, which paid for operatives’ salaries and bonuses.