Russian meddling abroad: Does Putin pull all the strings?

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, May 7, 2018, Vladimir Putin enters to take the oath during his inauguration ceremony as Russia's new presiden

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, May 7, 2018, Vladimir Putin enters to take the oath during his inauguration ceremony as Russia's new presiden

FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, around his factory whic

FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, around his factory whic

FILE In this file photo taken on Sunday, April 22, 2012, Maria Butina, a gun-rights activist poses for a photo at a shooting range in Moscow, Russia.

FILE In this file photo taken on Sunday, April 22, 2012, Maria Butina, a gun-rights activist poses for a photo at a shooting range in Moscow, Russia.

FILE  -  In this file photo taken on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, Maria Butina walks with Alexander Torshin then a member of the Russian upper house of parl

FILE - In this file photo taken on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, Maria Butina walks with Alexander Torshin then a member of the Russian upper house of parl

FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, May 12, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil giant Ro

FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, May 12, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil giant Ro

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shake hand at

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shake hand at

FILE In this file photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, a view of a Business center, believed to be the location of the new "troll farm" in St. Peters

FILE In this file photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, a view of a Business center, believed to be the location of the new "troll farm" in St. Peters

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu talk during an aw

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu talk during an aw

FILE - In this Sunday, April 22, 2018 file photo, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow,

FILE - In this Sunday, April 22, 2018 file photo, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow,

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018 a view of Trump Tower, left, on New York's Fifth Avenue. Experts say Putin isn’t necessarily di

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018 a view of Trump Tower, left, on New York's Fifth Avenue. Experts say Putin isn’t necessarily di

FILE In this file photo taken on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, a views of the four-story building known as the "troll farm" in St. Petersburg, Russia. Dubb

FILE In this file photo taken on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, a views of the four-story building known as the "troll farm" in St. Petersburg, Russia. Dubb

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, May 7, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a service held by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Krill, rig

FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, May 7, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a service held by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Krill, rig

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 file photo, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, serves food to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, center, du

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 file photo, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, serves food to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, center, du

File - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses graduates of the military and police academies

File - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses graduates of the military and police academies

MOSCOW (AP) — Experts say President Vladimir Putin isn't necessarily dictating every Russian influence campaign abroad.

Some accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election appear to be ambitious individuals taking the initiative based on signals from the presidential entourage.

Gun activist Maria Butina is one example. Others seem to be much closer to Putin himself.

Butina is jailed in Washington on charges that she tried to infiltrate U.S. political organizations as a covert Russian agent.

It's unclear whether Putin was even aware of Butina's activities. But the initiative — like Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya's efforts to meet with Donald Trump's campaign team, or online trolling credited to "Putin's chef" Yevgeny Prigozhin — dovetailed with the Kremlin's dual goals of destabilizing Western democracy and ending sanctions against Russia.