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Inside look at a Russian troll farm

The Russian "troll factories" that produced fake political ads during the 2016 election exist, and the people behind them have very real goals. CNN's Matthew Chance reports.

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 5:42 AM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 6:01 AM

The Russian government denied Monday that it had interfered in the 2016 US election campaign in the Kremlin's first remarks since 13 Russian nationals were indicted Friday on charges of conspiring to defraud the US.

Answering a question from CNN on a weekly telephone news conference, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said the indictments provided "no substantial evidence" of Russian meddling, and that there were "no indications that the Russian state could have been involved."

"We didn't see any substantial evidence of someone interfering in the domestic affairs," Peskov added. He said the US indictment "mentions Russian citizens, but we heard the accusations against the Russian state -- that the Russian state, the Kremlin and the Russian government were involved."

Special counsel Robert Mueller -- appointed by the US Justice Department to investigate Russian election meddling -- laid out charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities on Friday.

The sweeping indictment describes in detail an unprecedented, years-long effort by Russia to interfere with the US political system and the 2016 presidential election, affirming the longstanding conclusions of the US intelligence community. It is at odds with President Donald Trump's persistent questioning of those conclusions, which has continued throughout his first year in office.

The President has repeatedly called the investigations into his presidential campaign's potential collusion with Russia a "hoax," but on Sunday, Trump tried to clarify his stance.

"I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said 'it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,'" Trump tweeted. "The Russian 'hoax' was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia - it never did!"

Trump also tweeted that the Russians were "laughing their asses off in Moscow" for the way Washington has handled the Russia investigations.

Russia has denied any involvement in the election, and Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.

As recently as last week, three sources familiar with the President's thinking told CNN he remained unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election.

On Monday, Peskov rejected the findings in Mueller's indictment, saying: "There are no indications that the Russian state could have been involved in this and there can't be any. So we still insist, we think such evidence lacks foundation, we don't think it's in any case comprehensive, we don't think it's fair and we can't agree with it."

"Russia has never interfered, doesn't have the habit of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, and is not doing it now," Peskov added.

The "troll factory"

On Monday, CNN managed to briefly enter the building in St. Petersburg believed to house the "troll factory" at the center of the Mueller indictments, where paid bloggers flood social media, Internet forums and comments sections of news websites.

Security guards quickly ushered CNN out of the nondescript office block on 55 Savushkina Street, headquarters of the Internet Research Agency. Although the Agency officially ceased operations in December 2016, its work is said to continue inside the building.

A man smoking outside the property told CNN he was a journalist for Nevsky Novosti (Nevsky News), which is owned by Evgeny Prigozhin, according to the St. Petersburg investigative journalism website Fontanka.

Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch dubbed "chef" to Putin, controlled a firm that funded the Internet Research Agency, according to the Mueller indictment. He was one of the 13 Russians charged in the US on Friday. Prigozhin has denied any involvement in election meddling.

CNN was told by the building's real estate agent that although two floors of the property were empty, the top two floors were still occupied and would be vacated within 30 days.

Earlier reports had suggested that the troll factory had moved to another location, but that did not appear to be the case as of Monday.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 767409

Reported Deaths: 13980
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1054251805
Lake569191030
Allen42938698
St. Joseph37313568
Hamilton37298426
Elkhart29749470
Tippecanoe23479230
Vanderburgh23201405
Porter19573327
Johnson18822392
Hendricks18072321
Madison13548346
Clark13533198
Vigo12834256
LaPorte12566225
Monroe12546178
Delaware11143198
Howard10672237
Kosciusko9777124
Hancock8740150
Bartholomew8262157
Warrick8069157
Floyd8027182
Grant7366181
Wayne7233201
Boone7184105
Morgan6910143
Marshall6332116
Dubois6274118
Cass6090111
Dearborn601278
Noble599290
Henry5947111
Jackson516377
Shelby510898
Lawrence4922127
Gibson462696
Montgomery458192
Clinton455255
DeKalb455285
Harrison453577
Whitley415745
Huntington415582
Steuben410660
Miami405573
Jasper401155
Knox388391
Putnam385062
Wabash369083
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White339654
Daviess3090100
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Scott280058
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Clay273348
Washington254037
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Spencer238731
Fountain235250
Starke229859
Owen222659
Sullivan221343
Fulton208345
Jay202932
Carroll197322
Orange191156
Perry189739
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Tipton172747
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Blackford138032
Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109715
Brown106043
Crawford105616
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8348
Union73610
Ohio58111
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1123964

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1304331493
Cuyahoga1172542263
Hamilton824421261
Montgomery535421062
Summit489021014
Lucas43747834
Butler40000614
Stark33837939
Lorain26029510
Warren24919312
Mahoning22710613
Lake21472396
Clermont20391261
Delaware19143138
Licking16863227
Trumbull16801492
Fairfield16793207
Medina15861276
Greene15528254
Clark14352308
Portage13432218
Wood13343201
Allen12049245
Richland11740213
Miami11019228
Wayne9258228
Columbiana9204236
Muskingum9133137
Pickaway8750123
Tuscarawas8718255
Marion8710140
Erie8135166
Ashtabula7281179
Hancock7048135
Ross7024165
Geauga6962153
Scioto6701108
Belmont6222179
Lawrence5947104
Union590949
Jefferson5725162
Huron5638122
Sandusky5488130
Darke5444131
Seneca5377128
Washington5371111
Athens526960
Auglaize507487
Mercer491185
Shelby482797
Knox4614113
Madison447566
Ashland444898
Defiance438799
Fulton436375
Putnam4354104
Crawford4114111
Brown409662
Preble3949107
Logan392179
Clinton390766
Ottawa375881
Highland366068
Williams356678
Champaign349660
Guernsey330554
Jackson321354
Perry298850
Morrow294743
Fayette289150
Hardin279365
Henry277167
Coshocton272961
Holmes2725102
Van Wert252265
Adams249858
Gallia249850
Pike244737
Wyandot235257
Hocking222963
Carroll201249
Paulding179942
Meigs151240
Monroe137945
Noble137739
Harrison115238
Morgan111624
Vinton87317
Unassigned04
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