Russia’s foreign minister says the U.S. indictment of a group of Russians accused of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election is “just blabber.”
Asked about the indictment while attending the Munich Security Conference on February 17, Sergey Lavrov replied: “I have no response. You can publish anything, and we see those indictments multiplying, the statements multiplying.” Lavrov added, “Until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber.”
Under U.S. law, persons or organizations can be formally indicted only after a grand jury has found the evidence presented by a district attorney sufficient to bring a felony charge.
The federal indictment brought February 16 by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
In announcing the indictment, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said: “[T]here is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
Prosecutors in the U.S. often provide only basic facts sufficient to convince a grand jury, saving the key evidence for the trial -- which may mean that the 37-page Indictment is just the tip of the iceberg.
But, even this purposely limited evidence is “absolutely damning,” according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab expert Ben Nimmo, especially combined with the previously published reports by Facebook and Twitter.
The indictment says the U.S. election interference effort was called "Project LaKHta," which spent more than $1 Million per month in 2016 on what it called "information warfare" against the U.S.
“Lavrov’s statement is, as always a diversion. He is implying no facts are presented (in) the indictment, which is false,” Molly McKew, an information warfare analyst, told Polygraph.info via email.
“The Mueller indictment of the Internet Research Agency is probably one of the most significant documents to date on modern intelligence gathering -- a window into operational design that we don't often get,” McKew said.
McKew, an expert on Russian disinformation, testified before the Helsinki Commission in September 2017, where the CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, John Lansing, also spoke. McKew's firm, Fianna Strategies, has worked as a foreign agent, representing the Georgian government and a political party in Moldova in the U.S.
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, answering a question from a Russian delegate at the Munich Security Conference said the evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election “is now incontrovertible.”
“The Mueller indictment permanently demolishes the idea that the scale of the Russian campaign was not significant enough to have any impact on the American public. We are no longer talking about approximately $100,000 (paid in rubles, no less) of advertising grudgingly disclosed by Facebook, but tens of millions of dollars spent over several years to build a broad, sophisticated system that can influence American opinion,” McKew wrote for Wired.com.