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Russia’s Wagner Group Founder Admits To US Election Interference

    Russia’s Wagner Group Founder Admits To US Election Interference
    Updated Nov 10, 2022
    Image credit: Getty Images [via CNN]

    Facts

    • Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who admitted to founding the private force Wagner Group in September, appeared to confess on Monday that Russia is interfering in US elections ahead of Tuesday's vote, saying "we interfered, we interfere and we will interfere."[1]
    • His remarks, which haven't been verified, came despite US government cyber agencies stating that they've largely neutralized alleged interfering Russian "troll farms" and major social media platforms after becoming more vigilant about policing suspicious content.[2]
    • Russia state-owned news agency RIA Novosti claimed that his comments were ironic, but researchers have reportedly detected a new Russian campaign to influence the midterm elections, allegedly targeting Democrat candidates in the most heated races.[3]
    • While affecting the overall outcome of a midterm congressional election is much more complicated than a head-to-head presidential race, individual congressional races can be prone to foreign interference.[2]
    • Prigozhin is allegedly the financial backer behind a so-called Russian "troll farm" formerly known as the Internet Research Agency, which supposedly spreads misinformation and incendiary speech on social media to affect voters and sow discord.[4]
    • Though he had denied involvement in election interference until now, Prigozhin was indicted in 2018 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference and is on the FBI's most wanted list for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election.[5]

    Spin

    Democratic narrative

    Russia has launched a new disinformation campaign days ahead of the midterm elections, denigrating Biden and Democrats in close races to fuel anger among conservative voters. The Kremlin is doing all it can to ensure a Republican majority in the House and Senate, as this could limit US support to Ukraine and help Russia's war effort.

    Republican narrative

    While the Kremlin has long resorted to election interference — with intelligence showing that it has targeted Americans in every election since 2016 — Moscow knows it doesn't have the power to elect a specific party. When media outlets claim that there's a connection between Putin and the GOP, they are only helping Russia to aggravate polarization among Americans and build distrust in the US.

    Cynical narrative

    Though Russia has carried out several activities to interfere in US elections, Kremlin-backed operatives have lost their prominence in promoting discord and dividing American public opinion. Over the past four years, it's US domestic actors such as social media influencers, elected officials, and media outlets that have become the main spreaders of election-related disinformation.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 60% chance that the Republican party will control both the House and the Senate after the 2022 midterm elections, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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