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State Department offers $10M reward for information on how Russian internet trolls interfere in US elections

The State Department under the Biden administration announced a $10 million reward for information on foreign interference in U.S. elections, specifically activity by a Russian troll factory. 

In a statement released on Thursday, the U.S. Department of State renewed calls for information on the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency LLC (IRA), Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, and “linked Russian entities and associates for their engagement in U.S. election interference.” 

Viktorovich Prigozhin, an infamous Russian oligarch sometimes referred to as Russian President Vladmir Putin’s “chef,” has been targeted by both the United States and the European Union with sanctions since at least March in response to the war in Ukraine. However, he had already been on the FBI’s Most Wanted List since at least February 2018 when a federal arrest warrant was issued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after he was charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. 

The new reward of up to $10 million, offered through the State Department’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program, administered by the Diplomatic Security Service, seeks information leading to the “identification or location of any foreign person, including a foreign entity, who knowingly engaged or is engaging in interference in U.S. elections, as well as information leading to the prevention, frustration, or favorable resolution of an act of foreign election interference,” the statement released on Thursday said. 

RUSSIAN OLIGARCH, KNOWN AS ‘PUTIN’S CHEF,’ TARGETED WITH SANCTIONS IS ON FBI’S MOST WANTED LIST 

According to the State Department, IRA is a Russian entity engaged in political and electoral interference operations. Beginning as early as 2014, IRA began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election, “with a strategic goal to sow discord.”

IRA operated through several Russian entities, including Internet Research LLC, MediaSintez LLC, GlavSet LLC, MixInfo LLC, Azimut LLC, and NovInfo LLC. 

Viktorovich Prigozhin is a Russian national who provided funding to IRA through the companies he controlled — Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering, all collectively referred to as “Concord.” Concord sent funds, recommended personnel, and oversaw IRA’s activities through reporting and interaction with IRA’s management.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference on July 29, 2022, in Washington, DC. after a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding the Biden administration's proposal for the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittany Griner, who are both held in Russian custody. 

His associates, accused of working in various capacities to carry out IRA’s interference operations targeting the United States, are listed as: Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova, Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva, Sergey Pavlovich Polozov, Maria Anatolyevna Bovda, Robert Sergeyevich Bovda, Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov, Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev, Gleb Igorevich Vasilchenko, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina and Vladimir Venkov. 

“They knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016,” the State Department said. The reward announcement is part of the U.S. government’s “wider efforts to ensure the security and integrity of our elections and protect against foreign interference in our elections.” 

 

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Treasury upgraded the sanction designation against Viktorovich Prigozhin, pointing to his funding of Project Lakhta, a disinformation campaign and scheme that’s expensed tens of millions of dollars on “troll farms” and other mechanisms targeting audiences in the United States, Europe, Ukraine, and even Russia. Since at least 2014, Project Lakhta has used, among other things, fictitious online personas that posed as U.S. persons to interfere in U.S. elections, the Treasury Department said. 

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