Flap over Russian troll factory hits home

Katarina Aistova and Agata Burdonova
A photo that Russian linguist Agata Burdonova posted to her VKontakte account shows her at right, getting a hug from Katarina Aistova at left. Aistova has been linked to the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s “troll factory.” (Agata Burdonova via

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Agata Burdonova may marvel on LiveJournal over the fact that she lives just a couple of miles from Bill Gates’ house, but I’m marveling more over the fact that I live just a couple of miles from her apartment.

The proximity is notable because Burdonova has been drawn into an international controversy over her connections to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, or IRA. That’s the infamous troll factory whose activities sparked 13 federal indictments this month, stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

According to a report from Russia’s TV Rain, Burdonova was an aide to the head of the IRA’s media and public forums department, Katarina Aistova, who figured in a New York Times story about the operation in 2015.

Burdonova’s voluminous social-media postings paint a much softer picture,

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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