A 37-page indictment issued by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Friday brings fresh American attention to one of the strangest elements of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election: The Internet Research Agency (IRA), a state-sponsored “troll factory” in St. Petersburg.
But much of the information Mueller published on Friday about the agency’s efforts to influence the election had already been published last October — in an article by a Russian business magazine, RBC.
In a 4,500-word report titled “How the 'troll factory' worked the U.S. elections,” journalists Polina Rusyaeva and Andrey Zakharov offered the fullest picture yet of how the “American department” of the IRA used Facebook, Twitter and other tactics to inflame tensions ahead of the 2016 vote. The article also looked at the staffing structure of the organization and revealed details about its budget and salaries.
Zakharov agreed to answer some questions for WorldViews about his reaction to the details about the IRA in Mueller’s indictments (Rusyaeva left journalism after the story came out, although she stresses she did not do so because of a reaction to the story). Zakharov explained how it was a strange feeling seeing something he had so closely investigated become a major issue in the United States, when it had not been a “bombshell” when he published his report at home.