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New York Russian center founder charged as foreign agent, federal authorities say

New York City
Posted at 5:41 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 17:41:53-05

Federal authorities say they've charged a woman who has Russian and U.S. citizenship with subverting laws requiring foreign agents to register with the U.S. government.

The woman founded what prosecutors described as a "Russian propaganda center" in New York City. The charges against Elena Branson were unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Branson left the country for Russia after September 2020 and remains at large. Prosecutors confirmed that the FBI interviewed Branson in September of 2020 and said she falsely claimed she was never asked by Russian officials to coordinate meetings between US business leaders, politicians and Russian government officials, CNN reported.

The FBI searched the organization's offices in 2020 as well and prosecutors say Branson flew to Moscow a month after the search.

She is alleged to have corresponded directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prosecutors say her promotional outreach included an "I Love Russia" campaign aimed at American youths.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said, "Branson's promotional outreach, including an 'I Love Russia' campaign aimed at American youths, exemplifies her attempts to act at the behest of the Russian government to illegally promote its interests in the United States," CNN reported.  

Williams said, "Particularly given current global events, the need to detect and hinder attempts at foreign influence is of critical importance, and the Southern District of New York is proud to do its part in the fight against tyranny."