An indictment issued last week by special counsel Robert Mueller matches findings from a pair of Russian journalists last year about a so-called “troll factory.”
The 37-page indictment lists a number of Russian individuals — including 13 who have been charged with federal crimes — but one of the reporters who investigated the Internet Research Agency said some of the names seemed “incidental,” reported the Washington Post.
“It looks like they just took some employees from the that American department whose names they could get,” said reporter Andrei Zakharov. “But the American department was like 90 people. So my reaction was that, for me, it was like that curious list of oligarchs and Kremlin authorities where they put the whole Forbes list and the whole Kremlin administration on it. It’s very strange.”
Zakharov said his report published in October by Russian business magazine RBC was not exactly a bombshell in his home country, and he said the Kremlin didn’t have an official reaction — but he said Mueller’s team seems to have read the 4,500-word article.
“Probably,” he said. “Some of your U.S. colleagues used to contact me. Maybe some of them worked for your government, I don’t know. Nobody who said they were from Mueller’s team contacted me. I’ve never told people more than we wrote anyway.”
Zakharov and his colleague, Polina Rusyaeva, reported on Russian efforts to influence American politics and sow dissent by setting up fake social media accounts — but, like Mueller’s indictment, they drew no conclusions about how effective those attempts were.
“We tried to focus only on what happened,” he said. “We didn’t try to understand whether there was real influence on the election or not. And I still believe that nobody measured that properly. Yes, they were very active, but whether the influence was big or small? Nobody knows. We just wanted to show how they worked.”