Russians spin-doctors linked to infamous troll farm arrested in Libya

Russians spin-doctors linked to infamous troll farm arrested in Libya

2 min read
06 July, 2019
Two people with links to an infamous Russian troll farm have been arrested in Libya, according to their employer.
Russia has been a key supporter of self-styled general Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar [Getty]

Two people with links to an infamous Russian troll farm have been arrested in Libya, their employer, who has been put on the US sanctions list, said on Friday.

The Foundation for the Protection of Traditional Values said in a statement that its employees, including well-known spin doctor Maxim Shugaley, have been kept in custody in Libya since May.

It said that it has been working behind closed doors to secure the men's release.

The obscure think-tank did not explain the charges the men are facing but insisted 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.

A brief report on Libyan public opinion is available on the think-tank's website dated Monday.

Shugaley and the think-tank are connected to the infamous Russian troll farm that featured prominently in the probe by US special investigator Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

The think-tank is chaired by Alexander Malkevich who also edits the English-language website USA Really which is part of a media empire reportedly run by Russian President Vladimir Putin's ally Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The magnate reportedly finances the Internet Research Agency, better known as the "troll factory."

Malkevich was put on the US Treasury's sanctions list last year for leading USA Really, which according to the US Treasury Department, has been "posting content focused on divisive political issues but is generally ridden with inaccuracies."

Russia has been a key supporter of self-styled general Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar who controls much of the country's east and opened a military offensive on the capital in early April.

The head of Libya's UN-supported government in Tripoli has proposed holding nationwide elections to end the war.

Russian media outlet Proyekt detailed earlier this year how a group of Russian spin doctors hired by Prigozhin ran a presidential election campaign on Madagascar for one of the candidates in 2018.

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