Wagner chief admits to founding firm sanctioned by US over alleged election interference

Mick Krever and Anna Chernova

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner private military company, has admitted to founding the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which the US government has sanctioned for allegedly interfering in its elections.

On Tuesday a Wagner Telegram channel published a statement from Prigozhin, asking him to react to the suggestion that he was the founder of the IRA.

“I react with pleasure,” Prigozhin said in the statement. “I’ve never just been the financier of the Internet Research Agency. I invented it, I created it, I managed it for a long time. It was founded to protect the Russian information space from boorish aggressive propaganda of anti-Russian narrative from the West.”

In 2018, the US Treasury Department sanctioned the IRA, accusing it of having “created and managed a vast number of fake online personas that posed as legitimate U.S. persons to include grassroots organizations, interest groups, and a state political party on social media.”

“Through this activity, the IRA posted thousands of ads that reached millions of people online. The IRA also organized and coordinated political rallies during the run-up to the 2016 election, all while hiding its Russian identity,” said the Treasury Department.

“Further, the IRA unlawfully utilized personally identifiable information from U.S. persons to open financial accounts to help fund IRA operations.”

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