The founder of a Russian propaganda center in New York — who helped push an “I Love Russia” campaign — was hit with federal charges Tuesday that she acted as an illegal agent of the Kremlin.
Alleged spy Elena Branson launched the Russia Center New York in Manhattan in 2012, after receiving the authorization from the highest levels of the Russian government, Manhattan prosecutors charged.
They alleged that she even corresponded with Russian President Vladimir Putin himself as part of the effort.
The center served as a Kremlin propaganda machine aimed at spreading its influence in the US, prosecutors said.
Branson’s work with the center, which was financed in part by the Russian government, included hosting an annual “youth forum,” which was “designed to consolidate the Russian-speaking youth community in the United States,” prosecutors allege.
A dual citizen of Russia and the US, Branson, 61, also served as the chairperson of the Russian Community Council of the USA, an organization that targeted kids in the US and sought to promote Russian history and culture.
The council coordinated an “I Love Russia” campaign in the US among other activities, according to prosecutors.
The alleged agent, prosecutors said, helped arrange meetings between Russian and US government officials – including a former New York State Senator, prosecutors said.
The planned December 2015 meeting between the former state politician and the head of the Department of Foreign Economic Activity and International Relations for the Government of Moscow came about after the Russian minister reached out to Branson seeking her help organizing a “friendly hockey match” between the NYPD and the Moscow Interior Ministry teams.
The ex-state Senator reached out to the former NYPD commissioner about the requested hockey game, but it was unclear if he ever actually spoke to him, according to an Oct. 26 email from Branson to the Russian minister.
In another email to the Russian official dated Nov. 9, 2015, Branson said that she had just “talked with the senator about the opportunity to go to NY City Hall” and was awaiting an answer, according to the complaint.
Branson sent another email on Dec. 1, 2015 outlining an agenda for the Russian minister’s upcoming trip to The Big Apple, prosecutors said.
The plans included a meeting with the former state lawmaker and a dinner with an “influential American” who was pals with “the NYC Commissioner,” the court docs said.
Branson also tried to broker a meeting in New York City between the Russian minister and former President Donald Trump or one of his children, according to emails cited in the complaint.
The alleged spy authored a draft invite addressed to Trump, inviting him to a Russia Forum New York in April 2016, according to the court docs.
It’s unclear if the invite was ever sent out, and prosecutors wrote “there is no indication that the now-former President or his children attended the referenced meeting.”
This is an excerpt from the New York Post.
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