Posted 9 марта 2022,, 12:23

Published 9 марта 2022,, 12:23

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Head of New York Russian Center Yelena Branson accused of spying for Russia

Head of New York Russian Center Yelena Branson accused of spying for Russia

9 марта 2022, 12:23
Фото: Русский центр в Нью-Йорке
She faces six criminal charges, including failure to register as a foreign agent and also a visa fraud.

The owner of dual citizenship of the Russian Federation and the United States, Yelena Branson (Chernykh), has been charged with six counts, Reuters reports citing the US Department of Justice. Before returning to Russia in 2020, Branson, 61, lived in the US and served as chairman of the Coordinating Council of Organizations of Russian Compatriots (CSORC). The charges against her include acting as an agent of a foreign government without proper registration, conspiring to commit visa fraud, and making false statements to the FBI.

Branson, then Chernykh, was born in the Soviet Union, immigrated to the United States in 1991 at the age of 30, lived in New York and worked as a financial consultant for Beryl Consulting Group and Manhattan Venture Partners. In 1999, she received American citizenship. Around 2012, Branson founded the Russian Center - according to the indictment, with the approval of the "highest echelons of the Russian government" who funded the organization. The Russian Center was involved in holding an annual youth forum and other events promoting Russian history and culture. The center's website states that its mission is "to celebrate and share Russian cultural heritage to enrich our community, improve relations between the American and Russian peoples, protect the rights of Russian Americans, and encourage their participation in US public and cultural affairs". However, according to the prosecution, the real purpose of the center was to help Russian officials and their associates obtain US visas under the pretext of participating in the forum. According to the prosecution, before founding the Russian Center, Branson discussed it with high-ranking Russian officials and even the President of the Russian Federation. Branson also served as chairman of the Council of the Russian Community of the United States, which coordinated the "I love Russia" campaign and, according to the US Department of Justice, was also funded by Russian government agencies.

"Yelena Branson... actively violated foreign agent registration laws in the United States in order to promote Russian politics and ideology," said Damian Williams, Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “All along, Branson knew she was supposed to register as an agent of the Russian government, but chose not to, and instead instructed others on how to illegally avoid doing the same”.

In April 2016, Branson allegedly tried to invite then-presidential candidate Donald Trump or one of his children to the "Russia Forum in New York", and in November of that year, after the presidential election, she sent an email to Trump's adviser to congratulate him on his victory. and invite the newly elected president to the World Chess Championship, which was held in New York. At this event on November 10, 2016, Branson was photographed with the press secretary of the Russian President, Peskov. According to the US Department of Justice, Branson regularly received funding and instructions from the Russian government.

On September 29, 2020, Branson was questioned by the FBI. During the interrogation, she claimed that she had no connections with Russian officials, and less than a month later she flew to Moscow. In an interview she gave to RT last October, Branson admitted that she was forced to do so out of fear of arrest.