The only demonstrable evidence of Russian interference in U.S. politics came quietly out of the U.S. Department of Justice today, with the unsealing of an indictment charging a Russian national with “orchestrating a years-long foreign malign influence campaign that used various U.S. political groups to sow discord, spread pro-Russian propaganda, and interfere in elections within the United States.”
The New York Times report on the subject buries the names of the groups allegedly utilized by the Russian government in the scheme, namely the “Uhuru Movement” of St. Petersburg, Florida, which is part of a wider entity known as the African People’s Socialist Party.
Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that from “at least December 2014 until March 2022, Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a resident of Moscow, together with at least three Russian officials, engaged in a years-long foreign malign influence campaign targeting the United States. Ionov is the founder and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), an organization headquartered in Moscow and funded by the Russian government. Ionov utilized AGMR to carry out Russia’s influence campaign.”
“Ionov allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign, turning U.S. political groups and U.S. citizens into instruments of the Russian government,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Department of Justice will not allow Russia to unlawfully sow division and spread misinformation inside the United States.”
Ionov is alleged to have used his control over a handful of groups such as the Uhuru movement, in order “to spread pro-Russian propaganda under the guise of a domestic political organization, and to interfere in local elections,” the DOJ says.
One example cited stems from January 2016, when Ionov apparently guaranteed “financing for — and ultimately funded — a four-city protest tour undertaken by U.S. Political Group 1 in support of a ‘Petition on Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States’.”
In 2017 and 2019, Ionov is alleged to have supported two St. Petersburg, Florida, political campaigns, as well as further instructing Russian handlers of his campaigns. He is charged with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government – a crime with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Meanwhile, on a Facebook live post, Uhuru movement chairman Omali Yeshitela divulged that police had “handcuffed me and my wife,” before going on to discuss potential funding from “anyone else who wants to support the struggles for Black people.”
Ionov has previously been accused of raising funds for convicted Russian spy Maria Butina, who is now a Member of the State Duma in Russia. Butina targeted conservative groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) having been given a student visa by the Obama administration.