Release of 5 Russians in the U.S. election investigation spurs detainment in Russia

This article has been updated to reflect that Russian General Alexander Grushko is not the head of the Duma’s special committee on security, but instead the head of the military general staff.

Five days after three Americans and three Russians were indicted on foreign interference charges, two suspects have been detained in connection with the case, Russian news agencies reported. An unnamed source at the state security service, the FSB, told RIA Novosti that the men had been detained in Russia and charged with supporting organizations deemed a threat to national security, as well as hacking into American political sites.

This development brings to seven the number of individuals charged in the U.S. case. However, it also signals that the Russians who have allegedly been working for and coordinating with the Russian government on these operations are not the only ones in American custody.

As I explained in an article for Bloomberg, the fallout from these indictments, combined with Mr. Trump’s appearance before a joint session of Congress, Russia’s prominence in American public life and ongoing events in the Ukraine and Syria have put Moscow into the international spotlight in a way that it hasn’t been for a long time. For better or worse, that spotlight will likely remain.

The fact that the suspects were arrested in Russia provides some measure of transparency to the Putin regime’s actions, but does not address two central issues. The first is the question of what role, if any, Russia played in the indictment.

The U.S. Justice Department announced on Monday that the seven Russian nationals indicted for their involvement in influence operations last year include the infamous Internet Research Agency, the state-funded media outlet RIA Novosti and three Americans, including a social media activist.

The Russians did not take part in the actual operation. Instead, investigators say the IRANiTE Agency was responsible for the social media strategy that helped advance Mr. Trump’s campaign. Firms, individuals, groups and individuals from St. Petersburg, Dubrovka and other high-rise Russian cities are also named in the indictment.

The indictments come after the Department of Justice indicted 13 Russian individuals earlier this year for economic espionage, racketeering and “wilful interference in U.S. elections.” In that case, investigators say the Russians stole information to disseminate online and provided tactical and financial support to Donald Trump’s campaign. The indictments of the 13 individuals were widely seen as retaliation to Mr. Trump’s decision to expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the U.S. following his visit to Moscow earlier this year.


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