Russian Woman Indicted by Mueller Briefly Detained in Belarus

October 15, 2019 Updated: October 15, 2019

Anna Bogacheva, a former employee of a Russian troll farm indicted by former special counsel Robert Mueller, was briefly detained in Belarus, the country’s interior ministry said on Oct. 15.

She was detained at a hotel in the capital, Minsk, and later released, the ministry said in a statement.

Her arrest had been requested by the United States, Russian state news agency RIA said, citing an unidentified source familiar with the situation. Belarus is a close ally of Russia.

Following her release, the Belarusian prosecutor general’s office said it was considering removing her name from the country’s list of internationally wanted people.

Bogacheva is one of 16 Russian persons and entities that the Mueller team indicted on Feb. 16, 2018 (pdf), for meddling in U.S. politics, including the 2016 election. The Trump administration put sanctions on the indictees, as well as 17 others, on Sept. 20, 2018.

Bogacheva faces one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State.”

For at least several months in 2014, she allegedly worked for the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company that was allegedly producing social media content aimed at stoking division among Americans.

She allegedly oversaw the troll farm’s data analysis group and in June 2014 traveled through the United States “to gather intelligence” for the meddling operation. She said she traveled for personal reasons.

Trial

Bogacheva, as well as the other indictees, are unlikely to face trial unless they travel to countries willing to extradite them to the United States. Yet one of the charged entities, Concord Management, hired U.S. lawyers and volunteered to stand trial. As a defendant, it’s entitled to all the evidence used against it, as well as any exonerating information the government may possess.

While the case is scheduled to go to trial on April 6, 2020, even if convicted, Concord is unlikely to face further repercussions.

Concord was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known for once hosting events for Russian President Vladimir Putin at his St. Petersburg restaurant. Aside from holding massive government contracts to feed Russian schoolchildren, government workers, and troops, Prigozhin is allegedly connected to military contractor Wagner Group, which has reportedly fought on the Russian side in Syria and Ukraine.

Prigozhin is also among those charged and sanctioned by the United States.

Bogacheva didn’t respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Russia has denied allegations of meddling in the U.S. election.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab
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