Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals and Three Russian Companies for Scheme to Interfere in the US Political System

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen 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.”

“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. I want to thank the federal agents and prosecutors working on this case for their exceptional service.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates. 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 persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 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 political influence operations.

To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media.

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

After the election, the defendants allegedly staged rallies to support the President-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his election. For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the President-elect and another rally to oppose him—both in New York, on the same day.

On September 13, 2017, soon after the news media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating evidence that Russian operatives had used social media to interfere in the 2016 election, one defendant allegedly wrote, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity…. So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with my colleagues.”

The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two individual defendants.

Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.

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.

Everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. At trial, prosecutors must introduce credible evidence that is sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, to the unanimous satisfaction of a jury of twelve citizens.

The Special Counsel’s investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the Special Counsel at this time.

Pykh The Hedgehog Predicts Early Spring in Russia

© Yekaterinburg Zoo’s press service

YEKATERINBURG, February 2. /TASS/. Pykh the hedgehog from the Yekaterinburg zoo in the Urals largest city has predicted an early spring, a zoo official told TASS on Friday.

“This is the second time Pykh made his prediction on February 2, Groundhog Day,” Igor Permyakov said. “We offered him two plates with his favorite treats, mealworms. At first, the hedgehog selected the plate symbolizing the arrival of early spring and then came up to a plate signifying that this spring will not be sunny.”

“Pykh is a very active hedgehog and is not afraid of people,” he added.

He said that the zoo had selected hedgehogs to forecast weather as this tradition goes back to the days of ancient Rome.

“We decided to continue this tradition,” Permyakov said.

Pykh is not the only animal who predicts weather in Russia. Others include Olesya the groundhog, who lives in the Nizhny Novgorod zoo, and Businka the bear from Chelyabinsk.

Businka’s forecasts tended to be 90-percent accurate.

Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2. According to legend, if Phil, America’s most famous groundhog from the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, an early spring can be expected.

Russia’s Su-25 fighter jet shot down by militants in Syria; Russian Defense Ministry

© Yuri Smitnyuk/TASS


MOSCOW, February 3. /TASS/. Massive high-precision weapons strikes have been delivered at targets in the area, from which a missile from the man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) was launched to bring down the Russian Su-25 fighter jet, 30 militants of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (banned in Russia) have been killed, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“A series of high-precision weapons strikes has been delivered on the area controlled by the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, from which a MANPADS missile was launched at the Russian Su-25 jet,” the ministry said adding that “according to radio intercepts, more than 30 Jabhat al-Nusra militants were killed.”

MOSCOW, February 3. /TASS/. A Su-25 fighter jet of the Russian Aerospace Force was shot down by militants in Syria on Saturday, the pilot ejected but was killed later by terrorists, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

“On 3 February 2018, a Russian fighter jet Su-25 crashed when flying over the Idlib de-escalation zone. The pilot was able to report ejection from an area controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra militants (the terrorist group banned in Russia – TASS),” the defense ministry said. “The pilot was killed while fighting against terrorists.”

“According to preliminary information, the jet was brought down with a portable anti-aircraft missile system,” it added.

“The Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides in Syria alongside the Turkish side, responsible for the Idlib de-escalation zone, are taking steps to retrieve the Russian pilot’s body,” the ministry said.

Earlier reports said that Syrian governmental forces were fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra units in the Idlib province.

In accordance with an agreement by Russia, Iran and Turkey – the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire – de-escalation zones were set up in Syria in May 2017. De-escalation zones include the Idlib Province, some parts of its neighboring areas in the Latakia, Hama and Aleppo Provinces north of the city of Homs, Eastern Ghouta, as well as the Daraa and al-Quneitra Provinces in southern Syria.

Judicial Watch Sues for Russia Collusion FISA Documents

(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for FBI documents regarding the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant application submitted to – and responses from – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court related to alleged collusion between Russia and Trump campaign associates (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00245)).

Judicial Watch filed suit in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia after the agency rejected a July 19, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

Copies of all proposed and all final signed FISA applications submitted to the FISC relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election, allegations of collusion between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russia, and any known Trump associates regardless of context;

Copies of all FISC responses to the above-mentioned applications in which the Court notified the FBI or Justice Department that it would not grant the proposed applications or recommended changes. If any such FISC responses were provided orally, rather than in writing, please provide copies of FBI or Justice Department records memorializing or otherwise referencing the relevant FISC responses;

Copies of all FISC orders relating to the above mentioned applications, whether denying the applications and certifications, denying the orders, modifying the orders, granting the orders, or other types of orders.

“Today’s House Russia FISA memo makes a compelling case that the FISA court was misled and severely abused by top officials in the Justice Department and FBI,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The American people should be able to see for themselves the details of how the Obama administration officials (and Rod Rosenstein of the Trump administration) justified spying on the Trump team. From what we know publicly, this may be the worst government abuse scandal in a generation – which makes it urgent the Justice Department stop stonewalling the release of the alleged Trump-Russia collusion FISA documents.”

Russian social network VKontakte shuts down nine Columbine massacre fan groups — watchdog

© Sergei Konkov/TASS

Russian social network VKontakte has deleted nine “Columbine communities,” and posts with similar content were removed in four groups

MOSCOW, January 31. /TASS/. Russian social network VKontakte has deleted nine “Columbine communities,” and posts with similar content were removed in four groups, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media said in a statement.

It was earlier reported that Russia’s media and communications watchdog supports State Duma Vice Speaker Irina Yarovaya’s legislative initiative on extra-judicial disablement of websites containing information that may compel children and teenagers into illegal activity that pose a danger to minors’ lives.

Dangerous content has to be scrubbed within a three-day period under the law. However, after a website with banned content is removed, mirror pages appear, Yarovaya pointed out.

“Based on the requirements of the appropriate authorities, the VKontakte social network administration removed nine so-called ‘Columbine communities.’ Posts with similar content were deleted in four more communities. According to watchdog’s decisions, the specified groups contained illegal information capable of persuading minors into asocial behavior that could prompt suicide-related actions,” the report says.

Efforts to ferret out and block harmful and prohibited information continue in cooperation with appropriate authorities and social media administrators, according to the report.

“Columbine communities” are groups devoted to the mass shooting in Columbine High School in the American state of Colorado. In April 1999, two teenagers assaulted school students and personnel with small arms and homemade explosive devices. The attackers injured 37 people, 13 of whom later died. Following the assault, they shot themselves.

On January 19, a teenager wielding an axe attacked students and a teacher in a school in the community of Sosnovy Bor in an Ulan-Ude suburb in the Buryatia Region. The perpetrator then set fire to the building. Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary Representative in the Siberian Federal District Sergey Menyailo earlier told TASS that, according to preliminary information, the ninth-grader who committed the attack against the school students in the Sosnovy Bor community in Buryatia was a member of a closed group on social media and could be linked to those who attacked school students in other regions. Before that, on January 15, two teenagers stabbed nine school students and a teacher. On January 17, a school student in the village of Smolnoye, in the Chelyabinsk Region, stabbed a fellow classmate in a fight. Chelyabinsk Region Education Minister Alexander Kuznetsov told TASS that the quarrel that broke out in the school had nothing to do with the teenage school attack on the teacher and children in the Perm Region.



Luke Harding is an award-winning foreign correspondent with the Guardian. He has reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and has also covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is the author ofMafia State and co-author of WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy (2011) and The Liar: The Fall of Jonathan Aitken (1997), nominated for the Orwell Prize. The film rights toWikiLeaks were sold to Dreamworks and the film, “The Fifth Estate,” came out in 2013. His books have been translated into 13 languages. Luke lives in England with his wife and their two children.


“[Collusion] should be read by every conservative in this country.” —Glenn Beck

“Essential…I wish everyone who is skeptical that Russia has leverage over Trump would read it…. Harding, the former Moscow bureau chief of The Guardian, has been reporting on shady characters like Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was indicted last month, long before Trump announced his candidacy…. There’s no longer any serious question that there was cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but the extent of the cooperation, and the precise nature of it, remains opaque…. [Collusion] is invaluable in collating the overwhelming evidence of a web of relationships between the Kremlin, Trump and members of Trump’s circle.” —Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times

“Harding…presents a powerful case for Russian interference, and Trump campaign collusion, by collecting years of reporting on Trump’s connections to Russia and putting it all together in a coherent narrative. It’s the sheer breadth of connections, many of them dating back 20 years or more, between Trump and his associates and Russians with close ties to the Kremlin that put the lie to Trump’s repeated claims that he has no ties to Russia.” —The Nation


One-piece 1,600 gram emerald found in Russia to be put up for auction

© Press service of Malyshevsky Mine

YEKATERINBURG, January 29. /TASS/. Geologists at the Malyshevsky Mine in the Sverdlovsk Region have found a one-piece 14-centimeter emerald having a mass of 1.6 kilograms. It is the largest-ever emerald mined at the deposit since the 1990s, the press-service of the public corporation Rostech (incorporating the Malyshevsky mine) told TASS on Monday.

“The crystal was spotted at the right moment and raised to the surface, thereby preserving it in the original condition. The emerald’s mass is 1.6 kilograms, length, 14 centimeters and width, seven centimeters. The state-run repository Gokhran has already evaluated the find. It is of second-rate quality, because it is not transparent and its color is light-green. The crystal was protruding from wall. It was noticed by a foreman and the deputy chief geologist,” the source said.

No name for the emerald has been chosen yet. Experts estimate the mineral’s value at 4 million rubles.

According to the press-service, the just-found crystal is the largest one-piece emerald to have been discovered at the Malyshevsky deposit over the past few decades.

Until just recently the 1.2-kilogram emerald mined in the early 1990s was considered to be the largest. It was named President in honor of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin. Specialists at the Urals Academy of Mining estimated the crystal at $1.2 million. Currently it is kept in the Gokhran collection.

© Press service of Malyshevsky Mine

The Malyshevsky emerald and beryllium deposit is the largest deposit of emeralds in Europe, one of the three largest in the world and the sole one in Russia. It processes 93,700 tonnes of rock a year to produce an annual 1.5 kilograms of emeralds, 30 kilograms of beryls, and 100 grams of alexandrites. Also it mines phenakites, euclases, chrysoberyls, phenacites, alexandrites, phlogopites, lithium, rubidium and cesium.

Later in the day, it was announced the one-piece 1.6-kg emerald found in the Sverdlovsk Region will be put to an electronic auction and its starting price tentatively amounts to 4 mln rubles ($70,900), a representative of the Rostec Corporation told TASS on Monday.

“The gem remains in the company so far and will be presented at an electronic auction. The tentative price is about 4 mln rubles ($70,900) but we expect a major increase during the trading session. The gem has not yet received the name. We would like that it is selected on a competitive basis and think about details of this contest right now,” the representative said.



Poached bear paws and Siberian Tiger body parts seized in Russia

VLADIVOSTOK, January 30. /TASS/. Operatives from a customs department in Russia’s Far-Eastern Primorsky [Maritime] territory have detained three cars loaded with contraband commodities including weaponry, munitions, amber and a tonne of bears’ paws (about 870 paws), as well as body part of at least four Siberian tigers, which are entered in the Book of Rare and Endangered Species, the press service of the Amursky Tigr [Siberian Tiger] center said on Monday. Also collected was “the ‘grease’ and reproductive systems of frogs.” The malefactors were detained near the township of Platono-Alexandrovsky of the Khanka district.

“The stopped two minivans and an off-roader with a car trailer, with the citizens of Russia and China acting as drivers,” the report said.

“This beyond any doubt is a success,” the Director General of the Amursky Tigr Center, Sergei Aramilev said. “The largest channel of smuggling of animals’ bodily parts across the border that was registered ever here has been blocked.”

Aramilev said the consignment of animals’ parts had been gathered over several years. While two of the four tigers, the parts of which were tracked down by the customs operatives, died more than three years ago, another two animals were killed quite recently.

Bear paws are considered a delicacy in some Asian countries and are also used in Chinese medicine or simply as decorative objects. Bear Paw Soup is quite expensive and often only eaten by elites. The tiger parts were most likely also to be sold for the production of traditional Chinese medicine.


US Administration briefs Congress on sanctions against Russia

© AP Photo/J. David Ake

WASHINGTON, January 30. /TASS/. The US administration held a classified staff briefing for the Congress on sanctions against Russia. This is according to a statement made by US Senator Ben Cardin, who is Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The administration provided a classified staff briefing today on U.S. diplomatic efforts toward this end and I appreciate the administration’s engagement with Congress on this issue,” Carin said.

The Senator reminded that the so-called “Russia sanctions law” includes “a provision which mandates sanctions on those who conduct significant transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors unless they can show substantial reductions in this trade.”

“I am not going to discuss the classified nature of these discussions but I am intently focused on these sanctions and will continue to conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that the Russian government’s ability to conduct this trade is significantly impeded,” Cardin said.

“The U.S. should be prepared to impose sanctions when the law is clearly violated. The administration should not rest in these efforts and I expect a frequent and regular dialogue on this issue,” the Senator concluded.

Earlier this month US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman told TASS that Washington would unveil new sanctions against Moscow on January 29. When asked how many Russians will be affected by the new US sanctions, Huntsman said that “we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier that the US administration was expected to present to the Congress two Russia-related reports, which concern the implementation of the CAATSA (the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). According to Ryabkov, “it is another attempt to influence the domestic situation in Russia, particularly ahead of the presidential election.”

On January 26, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced an extended list of Russian individuals and companies subject to sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis. The list includes individuals and companies, allegedly involved in supplies of the Siemens turbines to Crimea – Alexei Mordashov’s company Power Machines, which has been cooperating with Siemens in production of turbines, as well as the Technopromexport engineering company (part of the Rostec State Corporation), which is building two power plants in Crimea. Technopromexport’s Director General Sergei Topor-Gilka, Deputy Energy Minister Andrei Cherezov and Head of the Department of Operational Control and Management in Electric Power Industry at the Russian Energy Ministry Yevgeny Grabchak are among the blacklisted individuals.


The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was signed by US President Donald Trump in August 2017. The Act toughens sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea and warns US and foreign companies against making cooperation agreements or contracts with Russian defense companies and intelligence agencies.

Under Section 231 of that act, 180 days after the act comes into effect, on January 29, 2018, the US President shall impose five and more sanctions for significant transactions with the Russian defense or intelligence sector.


New Video: Another Close Encounter Between Russian & US Military Jets

© Denis Tyrin/TASS

The US Navy has released footage of the “buzzing” incident by a Russian Fighter Jet:

BLACK SEA (Jan. 29, 2018) A U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Sukhoi Su-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3E to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes. This video is a compilation of various cameras over a period of time as shown in the displayed timecode. (U.S. Navy video/Released)

On Jan. 29, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.

MOSCOW, January 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Su-27 fighter jet intercepted a US ЕР-3Е Aries II warfare and reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Black Sea towards the Russian border. All safety precautions were observed during the interception, the Russian defense ministry’s press service said on Monday, commenting of Western media allegations about unsafe interception of an Orion reconnaissance aircraft.

According to the Russian defense ministry, at about noon on Monday Russian airspace control alert means spotted an unidentified air target over the Black Sea neutral waters approaching Russia’s airspace borders.

“A Su-27 fighter jet from air defense alert force was used to intercept the target. The Su-27 approached the aircraft to a safe distance and identified it as a US ЕР-3Е Aries II electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft,” the ministry said.

According to the Russian ministry, the Russian fighter jet followed the US aircraft to prevent it from violating Russia’s airspace borders observing all necessary safety precautions.

After the US reconnaissance aircraft changed its course off Russia’s airspace border, the Russian Su-27 fighter jet returned to the base. “The Su-27 flight was performed in strict compliance with international rule of airspace use, not incidents were reported,” the ministry added.

Russia Statement on Intercept of US Fighter Jet: US Should Quit Whining (Sputnik Editorial)

CNN reported earlier that a Russian fighter jet had intercepted an Orion reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea. CNN said citing US officials that the interception had been unsafe.

Previous intercept:

Air Force Releases Video of Russia’s Su-30SMs Intercepted by NATO F-15s