WASHINGTON — Russians working for a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin are engaging in an elaborate campaign of “information warfare” to interfere with the American midterm elections next month, federal prosecutors said on Friday in unsealing charges against a woman whom they labeled the project’s “chief accountant.”
The woman, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, managed a multimillion-dollar budget for the effort to “sow division and discord” in the American political system, according to a criminal complaint. She bought internet domain names and Facebook and Instagram ads and spent money on building out Twitter accounts and paying to promote divisive posts on social media.
She worked for several entities owned by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch sometimes known as “Putin’s chef” who was among 13 Russians indicted in February by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on charges of interfering in the election two years ago.
The operation detailed in the complaint was the latest evidence that Mr. Putin had brushed off a broad Western campaign aimed at deterring Russian intrusions in Europe and the United States. In addition to numerous Justice Department prosecutions of Russians for election interference and other covert operations, the United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on prominent Russians and kicked out dozens of Russian diplomats after the poisoning in March of a former Kremlin spy in Britain. Ms. Khusyaynova’s operation, prosecutors said, continued through it all.