Putin confidants advanced Russia’s campaign to undermine US Prez polls

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Moscow, (Asian independent) While imposing the latest sanctions, the US Treasury Department said that private and public sector corruption facilitated by Russian President Vladimir Putin has enriched his network of confidants, who used their illicit business connections to advance Moscows campaign to undermine the 2020 US presidential election.

On Thursday, the Department said that members of this network include First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration of Russia, Alexei Gromov, previously designated as a government official.

Gromov leads the Kremlin’s use of its media apparatus that sought to exacerbate tensions in the US by discrediting the November 3, 2020, election process.

As a result, the Treasury has designated Gromov for having attempted to interfere in the election.

The Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took sweeping action against 16 entities and 16 individuals who attempted to influence the election at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government.

“Treasury will target Russian leaders, officials, intelligence services, and their proxies that attempt to interfere in the US electoral process or subvert US democracy,” said Secretary Janet Yellen.

“This is the start of a new US campaign against Russian malign behaviour.”

According to the Department, Russian intelligence services, namely the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), played critical roles in propagating disinformation online.

The FSB, GRU, and SVR operate a network of websites that obscure their Russian origin to appeal to Western audiences.

Outlets operated by the intelligence services focus on divisive issues in the US, denigrate American political candidates, and disseminate false and misleading information.

The GRU and FSB were first designated in 2016, as per documents of the US Treasury.

The FSB directly operates disinformation outlets. SouthFront is an online disinformation site registered in Russia that receives taskings from the FSB. It attempts to appeal to military enthusiasts, veterans, and conspiracy theorists, all while going to great lengths to hide its connections to Russian intelligence.

In the aftermath of the 2020 polls, SouthFront sought to promote perceptions of voter fraud by publishing content alleging that such activity took place during the election cycle.

Meanwhile, NewsFront is a Crimea-based disinformation and propaganda outlet that worked with FSB officers to coordinate a narrative that undermined the credibility of a news website advocating for human rights, according to the Treasury.

Part of NewsFront’s plan was to utilise Alexander Malkevich, who is also being re-designated in Thursday’s action, to further disseminate disinformation. NewsFront was also used to distribute false information about the Covid-19 vaccine, which further demonstrates the irresponsible and reckless conduct of Russian disinformation sites.

The Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF) is an online journal registered in Russia that is directed by the SVR and closely affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. SCF is controlled by the SVR’s Directorate MS (Active Measures) and created false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning US officials involved in the 2020 election.

It publishes conspiracy theorists, giving them a broader platform to spread disinformation, while trying to obscure the Russian origins of the journal so that readers may be more likely to trust the sourcing.

InfoRosm which calls itself a news agency but is primarily run by the GRU’s 72nd Main Intelligence Information Center (GRITs).

GRITs is a unit within Russia’s Information Operations Troops, which is identified as the country’s military force for conducting cyber espionage, influence, and offensive cyber operations.

InfoRos operates under two organisations, “InfoRos, OOO” and “IA InfoRos”.

InfoRos used a network of websites, including nominally independent websites, to spread false conspiracy narratives and disinformation promoted by GRU officials.

Denis Tyurin held a leadership role in InfoRos and had previously served in the GRU.

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