A Russian woman accused by the US Department of Justice of managing money flows for a propaganda scheme aimed at politically charged Americans says that she’s “just a Russian woman.”
In a video posted online Monday, Elena Khusyaynova delivers a tongue-in-cheek statement on the federal criminal charge she faces and how her company’s work has allegedly influenced American politics.
“American officials are saying it is I who elected US President Donald Trump for the Americans. They are also saying that I will elect the US lawmakers for the Americans in November 2018. What can I say? I’m just a Russian woman,” she says in the video.
The Justice Department made public on Friday a criminal complaint against Khusyaynova for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
She is accused on working as the lead accounting manager for a collection of Russian companies including the Federal News Agency, which posted the video. Those companies allegedly formed a years-long effort to plant social media posts that would drive conservative and liberal Americans apart from one another.
Before the 2016 election, for instance, the Russian effort staged rallies, spread false news stories and worked to undermine public support for Hillary Clinton. In recent months, the companies spread Facebook and Twitter posts meant to rile Americans following the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville that killed a counter-protester, several mass shootings, police killings of black men, the Women’s March and the NFL national anthem debate, the Justice Department said.
In the video, posted on YouTube Monday, Khusyaynova appears to be exasperated and recites a prepared statement. Wearing a white button-down shirt and black vest with a microphone clipped to it, Khusyaynova sits at a desk in front of notebooks, a lamp and a computer. She sighs several times in the two-minute video.
Khusyaynova said she knows accounting, how to raise children and how to “operate a collective fish farm.” She does not speak English, she says in Russian.
Khusyaynova, a 44-year-old St. Petersburg resident, has allegedly worked for the propaganda operation since 2014 and oversaw its $35 million budget from 2016 to 2018, according to the Justice Department.
Behind her, the Federal News Agency’s logo is tacked to a bulletin board.
“I was shocked to hear that me, just a simple Russian accountant, elected a US president instead of Americans, and will soon elect their lawmakers. I was amazed but then my heart filled with pride,” she says in the video. “Turns out that a simple Russian woman like me can help the citizens of a super power to elect their President, I just need to make a wish.”
Previously, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly distanced himself from the propaganda effort. One of the indicted companies is “being accused of interference, but this company does not constitute the Russian state. It does not represent the Russian state,” he said in July at the summit In Helsinki with Trump, specifically mentioning the company Concord Management and Catering.
Concord Management is using US-based lawyers to fight a similar criminal charge to Khusyaynova’s related to its activity online before the 2016 presidential election. The company is accused of financing the propaganda effort. Other defendants in the Russian propaganda cases have not appeared in US court.
Neither has Khusyaynova.
But in her statement Monday, Khusyaynova worked in an echo of Trump.
“Let’s wish America to become great and peaceful again,” she said.