Russian foreign minister dismisses FBI charges on "project Lakhat" - Whisper Eye

Russian foreign minister dismisses FBI charges on “project Lakhat”

Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed as “blather” the charges leveled by the FBI special counsel against 13 Russians for election meddling.

Sergei Lavrov said at a major security conference in Germany he would not comment further until he saw “facts”.

The charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller are seen as a major development in his continuing probe into the US 2016 election.

President Trump has said the indictment shows his campaign did “nothing wrong”.

The Russian foreign minister was being questioned by participants at the Munich Security Conference.

“So until we see the facts, everything else is just blather.”

But Mr Trump’s National Security Adviser, H R McMaster, said evidence of Russian meddling was “now incontrovertible”.

It would become harder to conceal attempts to “interfere in our democratic process”, he added.

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump has repeated his assertion that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.

On Saturday, he quoted remarks by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who said that no American had knowingly participated in the Russians’ activities.

However, Mr Rosenstein’s comments only refer to the indictment which was published on Friday.

The indictment says those involved systematically monitored the success of their internet posts.

All of the 13 people named were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Three have also been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five have been accused of aggravated identity theft. Three companies have also been charged.

“By 2016, defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online persons to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election,”

“They engaged in operations primarily to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

One of the companies targeted is the Internet Research Agency, based in St Petersburg, which the indictment said “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election”.

One of the people named in the indictment – Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef”, denied election tampering.

“The Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see…,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Ria Novosti on Friday. “I’m not at all upset that I’m on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see him.”Mr Prigozhin has been a friend of Mr Putin since the 1990s. He has built up a business empire and has been accused of using companies to diffuse pro-Kremlin opinions via fake internet identities.

On Friday, Robert Mueller’s team released a slate of indictments that lays bare what it asserts is the full shape of the Russian meddling apparatus.And what an apparatus it was. In the run-up to the US presidential election “Project Lakhta”, as it was called, had an operating budget of more than $1m a month.

The indictment does not suggest collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, however, and the White House may breathe a sigh of relief at this.

But the heat is increasing, and the investigation isn’t over yet. At the very least, if Mr Mueller’s allegations hold up in court, it will become increasingly difficult for the president to argue that Russian meddling on his behalf is an unsubstantiated hoax.