The Justice Department announced that they indicted Elena Branson (a.k.a Elena Chernykh) on five charges Tuesday, calling her a Russian spy. While she had no direct contact with former President Donald Trump, she is yet another alleged Russian spy working to promote him within United States and organize people to attend his rallies.
The Daily Beast first reported in 2021 that the FBI was probing the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of the U.S. (known colloquially by its Russian acronym KSORS). They worked to promote Russian voices and policies through a kind of speakers bureau throughout the country.
"Branson, 61, is also alleged to have tried to get Trump to attend the 2016 World Chess Championship, which was being held at New York’s South Street Seaport," NBC News reported Tuesday evening. "Prosecutors said she emailed a Trump adviser on Nov. 10, 2016, asking that Trump, then the president-elect, attend the event. The FBI said in the court filing that it publicly released photos from the event to show it was attended by Dmitry Peskov, who is now Putin's press secretary. There is no indication that Trump attended."
As The Independent report explained, the US Attorney's Office alleges that Branson communicated with high-ranking Russian, as well as Vladimir Putin himself, in an effort to open a "propaganda center" in New York City. She "received tens of thousands of dollars in funding from the Russian government" as she held events and worked on messaging directed by Russian officials the federal complaint says.
The court filing even goes on to explain that the conversations about messaging with Russian officials happened on conference calls that were recorded and then emailed to Branson.
According to the British monthly Byline Times, Branson and colleague Sergey Gladysh promoted the “Trump 2020 Labor Day Cruise Rally” in Portland, Oregon on the KSORS Facebook page. Gladysh created the Russian-American Cooperation Initiative, which promoted Trump and distributed Russian propaganda that are still available on internet archive sites.
"The news website featured articles with the titles such as 'Second Trump term is crucial to prospect of better U.S.-Russia relations, safer world,' and “Biden victory will spell disaster for U.S.-Russia relations, warns billionaire," noted Stedman. "The billionaire referenced by the outlet is Oleg Deripaska, a key figure in the 2016 Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia."
Soviet-born theologian Mikhail Morgulis, who died in Nov. 2021, served on the board of KSORS between 2014 and 2018. He began a 2016 effort to rally Russian-Americans for Donald Trump. It continued in 2020.
The Washington Post reported just days after his death that Morgulis was in touch with another Belarus-born businessman, Sergei Millian, who was trying to connect the Trump campaign and Morgulis together, according to emails given to the Post. George Papadopoulos explained that at one point Millian tried to give him a job working both for Trump and doing some consulting for a wealthy Russian at the same time. Papadopoulos said he "rebuffed" the invitation.
"When Millian’s name first surfaced in connection to Trump two years ago, little was known about any connection between the two men, other than Millian’s assertion that he had sold units at a Trump property in Florida years earlier," the Post also said.
Stedman recalled the Senate Intelligence Committee included in its final report that "much about Sergei Millian resembles activities by a Russian intelligence officer or cooptee," and "Millian exhibited behavior consistent with intelligence tradecraft, and both have significant ties to Russian government and business circles." The committee tried to locate Millian, but was never successful and "his exact role in Trump’s world remains elusive," said the Post.
Page 479 of Vol. 5 of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian involvement in 2016 (Photo: Screen capture)
Morgulis promoted conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton was a homosexual, according to a 2017 interview with him. In 2020 he claimed to have a letter from fired Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin parroting another conspiracy about the Biden family.
Ultimately, Morgulis, Branson and Millian were all given the Silver Archer Awards in 2015 by the award's founder Igor Pisarsky. He's the same man who was sending money to Maria Butina before she was deported as a Russian spy.
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