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Foundation Linked To Russian Troll Farm Says Two Employees Detained In Libya


The headquarters of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg.

A Moscow organization with links to the notorious Russian "troll farm" said two of its employees have been arrested by Libyan authorities, and one news report said they were accused of trying to influence upcoming elections there.

The two men were detained in Libya in May, according to a statement released July 5 by the Foundation for the Protection of Traditional Values.

One was identified as Maksim Shugaley, who is known in Russia as a political spin doctor.

The foundation did not explain the charges the men were facing, nor why it waited more than two months before announcing their detention. However, the group stated that its employees did not interfere in any elections in Libya.

"The members of the research group were dealing exclusively with opinion polls and have been studying the humanitarian, cultural, and political situation in the country," the statement said.

Earlier July 5, Bloomberg reported the men's detention, citing a Libyan government document that accused them of election interference.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the reports.

“We have not received official notification from the Libyan side regarding this matter,” the ministry said

Shugaley and the foundation are widely known to have links to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based organization known as the Russian "troll farm."

Owned by a Kremlin-connected businessman named Yevgeny Prigozhin, the troll farm was mentioned repeatedly by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The foundation says it is a “nonprofit organization whose activities are aimed at protecting the national interests of the Russian Federation." It's headed by Aleksandr Malkevich, who also edits an English-language website titled USA Really.

News reports have linked that effort to Prigozhin, who was indicted by Mueller along with other employees.

Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department hit Malkevich with economic sanctions, saying USA Really was "posting content focused on divisive political issues but is generally ridden with inaccuracies."

With reporting by Bloomberg
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