A Kremlin-backed Russian agent has meddled in United States politics for seven years and recently attempted to undermine American support for Ukraine by recruiting local activists to spread pro-Moscow propaganda, the Justice Department said on Tuesday known Friday.
Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, who worked with Russia’s Federal Security Service and at least three unnamed “Russian officials,” was accused of conspiring to have US citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government from December 2014 to March this year, the agency said.
“Court documents show that Ionov allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign that turned U.S. political groups and U.S. citizens into instruments of the Russian government,” said Deputy Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s Division of National Security. The 24 page Charge against Ionov was unsealed in Tampa, Florida.
Ionov, who lives in Moscow, was not in Tampa when the grand jury indictment was unsealed and there was no immediate response to the Russian government’s revelations.
Neither Ionov nor any of his alleged Russian accomplices are “duly accredited diplomatic or consular officials,” the indictment said.
Ionov, founder of an NGO called the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, was already on the justice ministry’s radar. 2018, It has been revealed His organization had raised money to help convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, who was deported to Moscow in 2019, an event mentioned in the indictment.
The DOJ said in its statement that Ionov targeted “political groups” in Florida, Georgia and California.
The US-based groups have not been identified. However, shortly after the Ionov charges were announced, the FBI in Tampa confirmed this local media she had searched the headquarters of the Uhuru movement in St. Petersburg, Florida, in connection with the alleged conspiracy.
“The Uhuru Movement is a global organization led by the African People’s Socialist Party, uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development,” the group said said on his website.
The DOJ did not identify the members of the three groups that “jointly conspired” with Ionov, but said it was fully aware that Ionov and his organization were “agents of the Russian government.”
In May 2015, Ionov sent the “leader” of the Uhuru movement to St. Petersburg on a “complimentary trip to Russia” and for the next seven years “exercised leadership and control over senior members,” the DOJ said.
The Uhuru movement did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, but at an earlier press conference, an Uhuru leader did not deny the group’s ties to Russia.
“We can have relationships with anyone we want to make this revolution possible with,” Eritha “Akile” Cainion said after the indictment was announced. The Tampa Bay Times reported. “We support Russia.”
Four of the “unaccused co-conspirators” listed but not named in the indictment are US citizens residing in St. Petersburg, while the others reside in Atlanta and California. One of the Californians also has a home in Moscow.
Based on the indictment, Ionov appears to have been most active in St. Petersburg, where he allegedly attempted to stir up racial resentment by having Uhuru members write a petition to the United Nations “claiming that the United States had Committed genocide against Africans”, which would later be translated and circulated throughout Russia.
Ionow, according to the chargealso encouraged Uhuru members in 2017 and 2019 to vote in the St. Petersburg municipal elections and campaign on “reparations” for slavery, a contentious issue in the United States. He also helped fund the campaigns, the indictment says.
In California, Ionov supported an unnamed group that wants the state to secede from the United States, the indictment said. Ionov paid $500 for posters for a 2018 demonstration outside the state Capitol in Sacramento, encouraging participants to “physically enter the governor’s office.”
In March, after the Russians invaded Ukraine, Ionov worked to rally support for Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin by attending a video conference hosted by US Political Group 1, which the FBI identified as the Uhuru organization.
During the video conference, Ionov reiterated the Kremlin’s false claims that “Nazis were in power in Ukraine, killing innocent people.”
Ionov, the DOJ said, also paid for members of an unnamed Georgia group to travel to California and attend a protest outside an unnamed social media company that had restricted posts supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/russian-operative-used-us-activist-groups-spread-propaganda-feds-say-rcna40715 Russian agents used US activist groups to spread propaganda, Feds say