Her name is Elena Branson , she is 61 years old, has a Russian and American passport, and for Joe Biden ‘s 007 and a spy in the service of the Kremlin. Thus begins the first spy-story with a Cold War flavor since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. She denounces Branson’s undercover activity, born Elena Chernykh , and Attorney Damian Williams at the Manhattan Federal Court.
On Tuesday evening, the Ministry of Justice published the long deposition of Neil Sommers , an FBI agent, which confirms under oath: Branson has been working as a secret agent of the Russian intelligence for twenty years.
The name of the woman in the eye of the judicial storm says nothing to most people. Instead, it is known to the Russian diplomatic and consular circuit in the United States. In 2012 you founded the “Russian Center of New York”, a foundation with the aim, as the site states (which has been dormant for years), to “celebrate and share the Russian cultural heritage”. The description given by the FBI is different: “A Russian propaganda center”.
In the meantime she was director of another institution linked to the Russian government, the “Council of the Russian community in the United States”, and in this position she distinguished herself for coordinating the promotion campaign to the cry “I love Russia” aimed at the ” American youth “.
Today Branson, who arrived in the United States in 1999 and left them for Moscow in October 2020 to never return, is accused of having worked in America as an “agent of the Russian Federation and the Moscow government” in violation of the Fara (Foreign Agents Registration Act), the law that provides for the obligation to register with the Ministry of Justice as agents in the service of foreign countries.
For the Russian embassy in Washington, which has a relationship with Branson dating back over time, this is the umpteenth “witch hunt” that brings the United States “to the era of McCarthyism”, reads a note. The testimony of Sommers, the agent who has been following the moves of the alleged Moscow spy for years, however, seems to leave little doubt.
For fifteen years now, Branson’s New York life has apparently been that of a lively promoter of Russian cultural activities. Dinners, galas, meetings and conferences, openings, all with the patronage (and, the FBI reveals, thousands of dollars in funds) of the Russian government. In the long list of heavy invitations there is also an attempt, in April 2016, to have the then presidential candidate Donald Trump and his family as guests of honor at an international chess tournament in Manhattan.
Branson is not just any lobbyist, but a troublemaker with heavy entrances in the Kremlin, constantly claimed in phone calls and chats with her Russian guests in New York intercepted by the American 007. Even with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov , invited several times to the “patriotic” events set up by the acrimonious Russian-American agent. Like the “World Congress of compatriots living abroad”, an event organized by the Russian Foreign Ministry which annually draws the diaspora abroad to Moscow.
For the Russian government it is anything but a secondary activity. It is no coincidence that in July 2020, among the amendments that changed the face of the constitution of the Russian Federation by canceling, among other things, the limit of presidential mandates, there was also the provision according to which the government “offers support to compatriots who live abroad in the exercise of their rights […] and in the preservation of their cultural identity ”. Branson, in short, is not a second-rate pawn in the activity of Russian “sharp power” abroad, to quote a happy reinterpretation of the famous expression of Joseph Nye .
Branson and Butina in Moscow
Not surprisingly, between one photo and another with Russian diplomats and academics, the web archives bring to the surface a long interview on Russa Today released by Branson to Maria Butina , a Russian parliamentarian expelled from the United States in 2018 after confessing to being a spy in the service of the Kremlin.
But in Branson’s long and decorated career as a fixer and activist (real or alleged) in New York, detailed in the FBI deposition, there are also realities of diplomacy and the Russian government’s machine of influence that are well known in Italy. This is the case of Rossotrudnichestvo, better known in Rome as the “Russian Center of Science and Culture”, the government agency for international cooperation housed under the vaults of Palazzo Santa Croce and the beating heart of Russian diplomatic movements in the capital.

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