— Russian accountant Elena Khusyaynova was just indicted for allegedly assisting attempts to interfere in US elections. Now US-Russian news organisation USA Really says Khusyaynova is its chief financial officer
A US-Russian media venture flagged by cybersecurity experts earlier this year has been implicated in the indictment of Russian national Elena Khusyaynova, who is accused of assisting attempts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election and 2018 US midterm elections.
USA Really, a Moscow-based news website headed by Russian government media adviser Alexander Malkevich, has drawn significant scrutiny since its launch in May, including close comparisons to the Robert Mueller-indicted Internet Research Agency, better known as the Russian troll factory.
Alexander Malkevich (source)
Articles on the USA Really website highlight hot-button social, cultural, and political issues using charged language, including reporting about Donald Trump, the Mueller probe, US elections, neo-confederate movements, and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. For example, last month an article with the title “New Shocking Facts About Michelle Obama’s Gender” recycled bogus claims originated by InfoWars founder Alex Jones—once described by New York Magazine as “America’s leading conspiracy theorist”—that former first lady Michelle Obama was born a man.
USA Really is overseen by the Federal News Agency (FAN), a pro-Kremlin news agency identified by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as belonging to a network of Russian entities allegedly controlled by “Putin’s chef,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, one of 13 Russian nationals indicted in February in connection with the now-infamous troll factory.
In an indictment released yesterday, Khusyaynova is accused of helping to manage and obscure payments to FAN and other entities allegedly involved in Project Lakhta, a political and electoral influence campaign waged on US social media networks going back to 2014.
Malkevich has previously dismissed questions about who funds USA Really, even claiming the existence of a deep state conspiracy to falsely link the website to Russian troll operations. Those claims reemerged in two anonymously penned articles published earlier today on the USA Really website, which described Khusyaynova as the victim of a “Big American Witch Hunt” perpetrated by the DOJ in cooperation with Facebook and Twitter.
“There are just two weeks left before the election, so all the dirtiest political techniques are being used,” Malkevich is quoted as saying in one of the articles.
A second article tagged as an “Exclusive” made no attempts to conceal Khusyaynova’s relationship to USA Really, even claiming that the indicted accountant currently works as USA Really’s chief financial officer—information not mentioned anywhere in the DOJ’s indictment.
“The truth is that Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova is CFO of the USA Really news agency and its parent organization, Federal News Agency,” the article explained, before launching into a stream-of-consciousness diatribe describing the indictment as a “disgusting, monstrous octopus stretching its arms to choke free speech and independent journalism panicked upon hearing USA Really’s voice of truth that it tries to hush up through the hegemony of conventional American media.”
The tirade ended with an appeal to readers, including agents of the US federal government, to submit evidence of US interference in other countries via a writing contest on the USA Really website, which includes an award named The Pepe The Frog “Best Meme” Award. Pepe the Frog is a comic book character created by Matt Furie that was recently adopted as a mascot by white nationalist groups.
It’s unclear if Malkevich or USA Really will be named in any future indictments. A spokesperson for the National Security Division of the DOJ declined to comment.