The woman accused by federal prosecutors of working as a secret Russian agent wed a much-older, government-connected Princeton University professor during her decades of living in the US — and fled the country after the FBI raided her $1 million Upper West Side condo with a terrace overlooking Central Park.
Elena Branson — a Russian native who was named in a six-count federal complaint Tuesday — gained dual US citizenship after marrying the late William Branson, who was 23 years her senior and had a daughter just four years younger than his bride.
William Branson, who died of throat cancer in 2006, was an expert in international economics and a longtime consultant to the World Bank who also served on former President Richard Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisers, according to his obituary on Princeton’s website.
Branson was also a consultant to the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Branson married Elena in the late 1990s after meeting at an IMF conference. They were introduced by Elena’s brother, who was working as an interpreter.
In an exclusive interview with The Post Wednesday, Emily Branson — one of William’s children from a previous marriage — broke down in tears after being told about the charges against her former step-mom, repeatedly saying, “Oh, my God” and “Wow.”
But Emily had nothing nice to say about Elena, telling The Post that her dad “was really taken in” by the “younger and attractive” woman.
Elena also alienated William Branson from his three kids, Emily Branson said.
“We were quite close until the marriage,” she recalled of the relationship with her father. “In the end, he cut everyone out of the will. He was obsessed with her.”
That affection went only one way, according to Emily. She told The Post the couple didn’t live together, while Elena “never used my father’s last name” and “obviously didn’t care for him.”
“I assumed she married him for a green card or money rather than spying,” she said. “She never spent any time with my dad at all. She traveled constantly and blew all his money.”
Elena Branson, now 61, has a daughter who immigrated from Russia and was adopted by William Branson when she was in her mid-teens, Emily Branson said.
Public records show the daughter, Ekaterina Zamyshlyaeva, is now 42 and lives in Chevy Chase, Md., where Emily Branson said she’s married to a dentist.
Zamyshlyaeva didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
In 2001, William and Elena Branson bought a 12th-floor apartment in The Vaux, a luxury building at 372 Central Park West, city records show.
“I kind of recall representing an old professor and a younger wife but that’s it,” said Manhattan lawyer Peter Graubard, who handled the purchase.
After William Branson’s death, his daughter says, Elena “took all the stuff and left.” She sold the Vaux condo last year for $950,000 and paid off a $242,000 mortgage she obtained in 2011, records show. A Zillow estimate indicates the apartment is now worth more than $1 million.
Last year, Elena Branson was interviewed for the Russian propaganda network RT by convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, who returned to her home country in 2019 after serving an 18-month prison sentence in the US for trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Organization and other conservative groups.
In the interview, Elena described how 30 FBI agents raided her apartment in September 2020, prompting her to return to Russia the following month to avoid getting locked up.
“We have your experience, which could be repeated with me,” she told Butina.
Elena claimed to have moved to the US in 1991 because “it was quite difficult to find a good job” in Russia but made no mention of having married an acclaimed Ivy League professor.
In the Butina interview, Elena claimed to have merely been involved in coordinating “humanitarian projects,” including promoting Russian language, culture and heritage, and helping “compatriots who are in trouble.”
She denied having communicated with or tried to influence American politicians, an assertion at odds with claims by prosecutors that she spoke to an unidentified New York state senator in 2015 to arrange a meeting with a Russian official, and also invited former President Donald Trump to an event during his 2016 campaign.
Following Trump’s election, Elena allegedly emailed one of his advisers to invite the president-elect to the World Chess Championship, where authorities say she was later photographed with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.
There’s no indication Trump attended either event, according to the complaint.
Authorities say Elena Branson is still at large. If she is ever tried and convicted of all the counts against her, she faces up to 35 years in prison.