Thirteen Russians have been charged with interfering in the US 2016 election, in a major development in the FBI investigation.Three of those named have been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five have been accused of aggravated identity theft.
The announcement was made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian meddling.Three Russian companies are also named in the indictment.
The indictment states, a group of Russians:
- Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name
- Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising
- Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation
- Organised and promoted political rallies within the United States
- Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens
- Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton
- Received money from clients to post on US social media sites
- Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram
- Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)
The indictment says those involved systematically measured how well their internet posts were doing and adjusted their strategies to maximise effectiveness.US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to sway the 2016 presidential election in favour of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
President Trump has been accused by opponents of trying to interfere with the investigation. The president denies this – as well as any allegation of collusion with Russia during the campaign.