She was born in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the U.S. at 30. Nine years later, in 1999, she became an American citizen.
Elena Branson, 61, is accused of flouting the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, and failing to properly inform the U.S. government she was working on behalf of the Kremlin.
“Elena Branson… actively subverted foreign agent registration laws in the United States in order to promote Russian policies and ideology,” according to Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Branson is alleged to have corresponded with Putin himself and met with a high-ranking Russia minister before founding a Russian propaganda center here in New York City, the Russian Center New York.”
FARA requires foreign agents to register and disclose their work if they engage in political or public relations work “on behalf of a foreign principal,” according to the Justice Department.
The 36-page, six-count criminal complaint, filed in federal court Tuesday, alleges that Branson’s subterfuge began in 2011. She is also known as Elena Chernykh, according to court documents.
She is accused, among other things, of taking part in a Putin-backed campaign to use Russian diaspora to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda and to network Russian citizens with influential Americans – and corresponding directly with Putin and other Kremlin officials.