Russian spent years as puppeteer behind US political groups, officials say | american politics


A Russian man orchestrated a years-long effort to puppet political groups in Florida, Georgia and California to sow discord in the United States, spread pro-Russian propaganda and meddle in the US election, officials claimed on Friday. officials from the Ministry of Justice.

Moscow’s Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov has been charged with conspiring to get US citizens to act as unlawful agents of the Russian government, according to a Justice Department statement. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

The indictment against Ionov was related to a raid by federal agents on the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg, Florida on Friday, the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing US officials.

The Uhuru Movement belongs to the African People’s Socialist Party and claims to unite “the people of Africa as one…for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development”.

At a press conference on Friday, a Uhuru leader openly said his group was “pro-Russian” and dismissed the raid as an attack meant to isolate Africans in the United States who are fighting for peace. release.

“We can have relationships with whoever we want to make this revolution possible,” said leader Eritha “Akile” Cainion.

The movement’s headquarters in St. Petersburg recently made headlines for unrelated reasons after a man using a flamethrower set a flag flying outside the building on fire, leading to his arrest.

According to the Justice Department, Ionov was acting on behalf of the Russian intelligence agency FSB when he financially supported the groups at the center of the case, none of which are explicitly named in the indictment. He allegedly ordered them to publish pro-Russian lies and coordinated actions on their part intended to promote Russian interests.

The department also claimed that Ionov influenced an American political group in Florida under his control to interfere in local elections, supporting two people’s political campaigns in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2017 and 2019. He listed the group and the individuals as “unindicted co-conspirators”. ” but did not name them.

From at least December 2014 to March 2022, the department said, Ionov and at least three other Russian officials engaged in a malign foreign influence campaign targeting the United States.

Separately, the US Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on Ionov, fellow Russian Natalya Valeryevna Burlinova and four Russian entities it accused of supporting the Kremlin’s overseas election interference mission, especially in the United States and Ukraine.

According to the Justice Department, the four entities in question are: the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), which Ionov founded and chairs; Ionov Transcontinental; Stop-Imperialism; and the Center for Support and Development of Creative Diplomacy of Public Initiative (Picreadi).

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the indictment or the US sanctions, which, among other things, block the named persons’ property under US jurisdiction.

Reuters contributed to this report


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