WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Thursday offered a reward of as much as $10 million for details about Russian interference in American elections, including a detailed associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a troll farm that officials say fueled a divisive social media campaign in 2016.
The reward, offered by the department’s Rewards for Justice program, seeks information in regards to the Web Research Agency, Yevgeniy Prigozhin — a wealthy businessman whose ties to Putin earned him the nickname “Putin Chef” — and other entities involved in interfering within the 2016 U.S. election won by Republican Donald Trump.
Prigozhin and 12 other Russians were indicted together with the IRA in 2018 as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Russia had coordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the election. The defendants were accused of an enormous but hidden social media trolling campaign geared toward sowing discord on hot-button issues and at helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Officials say Prigozhin provided funding for the IRA through corporations he controlled.
Not one of the defendants has faced trial in the US. The Justice Department in 2020 moved to drop charges against two Russian firms named within the indictment, saying it had concluded that a trial against a company defendant, with no presence within the U.S. and no prospect of meaningful punishment even when convicted, would likely expose sensitive law enforcement tools and techniques.
The State Department described the reward as a part of “wider efforts to make sure the security and integrity of our elections and protect against foreign interference in our elections.”