Because in the midst of an effort to influence and to disrupt American democracy, an effort that spanned four years, cost millions of dollars, and employed hundreds of Russians, the team at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg had arranged a joke, a present, and a tribute for the Kremlin oligarch who was making it all possible.

In the days since Bob Mueller’s 37-page indictment of 13 Russians and three companies involved in sowing political discord in the midst of the 2016 US presidential election, much of the media focus has been on the Internet Research Agency, the so-called troll factory responsible for running a network of phony social media identities and paid political advertisements aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton and building up Donald Trump.

A closer read of the indictment, though, tells an even more interesting story—a story of how a restaurateur whom Vladimir Putin made wealthy repaid the favor by unleashing an army of trolls to promote MAGA, bash Trump opponents, organize political rallies, suppress the votes of Clinton supporters, and hire Americans to dress up like Clinton in prison.

By 2011, Prigozhin was winning contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars—and then, in 2012, more than $1 billion to feed more than 90 percent of the Russian military.

After all, one of the unwritten rules of Putin’s Russia is that those who see wealth showered upon them by the state owe a debt to aid Putin politically.

Concord classified the payments for Project Lakhta as “software support and development,” and to conceal the funding funneled it through the bank accounts of 14 different affiliates.

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