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SPY BUSTED: Russian national indicted in election interference conspiracy

SPY BUSTED: Russian national indicted in election interference conspiracy

SPY CAPTURED: Russian national indicted in election interference conspiracy

In Tampa, Florida on Friday an indictment was unsealed charging a Russian national with using U.S. political groups to interfere in the country’s elections, intentionally sow discord, and spread pro-Russian propaganda.

From at least 2014 until 2022, Moscow resident Aleksandr Victorovich Ionov worked on behalf of the Russian government, under the supervision of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor of the KGB. 

“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.”

With Russian backing, Ionov provided financial support, organized, coordinated, and funded the direct action of political groups in Florida, Georgia, and California recruited by the foreign agent, in an effort to push Russian interests.

The activities of U.S. Political Groups 1, 2, and 3 – as named in the indictment – were covered in Russian media outlets and reported to the FSB.

The headquarters of U.S. Political Group 1 — confirmed by St. Petersburg police as the socialist Uhuru Movement — was raided on Monday in connection to claims of election interference.

Eritha ‘Akile’ Cainion, the leader of pan-African political group Uhuru Movement, defended the group’s support of Russia during a news conference.

“We can have relationships with whoever want to make this revolution possible,” Cainion said, according to the Tampa Bay Times“We are in support of Russia.”

Cainion accuses the indictment of being a “propaganda war being waged against Russia.”

“The U.S. has a hold on what is being propagated about the war on — the defensive war — Russia’s defensive war against Ukraine, against world colonial powers because that’s what’s happening right now,” she said.

According to the indictment, In 2015, Uhuru’s leader received an all-expenses paid trip to Moscow funded by Ionov.

And emails Cainion sent confirm that the group was aware of the relationship that Ionov’s Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AMGR) had as an “instrument of the Russian government.”

The indictment accuses the Russian national of interfering in local elections by supporting and funding the campaigns of Uhuru candidates in 2017 and 2019.

The Atlanta-based Black Hammer Party, U.S. Political Group 2, was paid by Ionov to travel from Georgia to Facebook headquarters in San Francisco to protest the platform’s censorship of posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The protest was live-streamed on the political group’s social media feeds and was carried on Russian media outlets, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports

The Black Hammer Party and its leader Gazi Kodzo have promoted Russian propaganda, called Ukraine a White supremacist country, and advocated for secession.

“Secret foreign government efforts to influence American elections and political groups threaten our democracy by spreading misinformation, distrust, and mayhem,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The department is committed to ensuring U.S. laws protecting transparency in the electoral process and the political system are not undermined through foreign malign influence.”

Ionov exercised what the indictment calls “direction and control” over U.S. Political Group 3, which promoted the secession of the state of California — a movement called Calexit.

Yes California Independence and its President Louis J. Marinelli received mainstream attention for their secessionist movement after the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016.

Lesser known were Marinelli’s ties to Russia.

Yes, California Independence made a push to see the referendum on secession added to the primary ballot in 2019. The campaign to separate from the U.S. was covered by Russian media and profiled multiple times on the government-funded RT.

The Communist Party’s Pravda newspaper frequently covered Marinelli’s campaign, including a conference with other secessionists that was paid for by the Russian government.

“We’re starting a dialogue about California becoming an independent country,” Marinelli says. “And I’m able to speak with the media here. I’ve been in the TV and the radio and the newspaper several times here in Russia.”

The state’s secession movement called for the establishment of a California embassy in Moscow, according to KQED.

In January and February of 2018, Ionov supported Yes California Independence’s efforts to orchestrate a protest demonstration at the California Capitol building in Sacramento. Ionov partially funded the efforts and attempted to direct Marinelli to physically enter the governor’s office.

“The impact of Russian malign foreign influence cannot be overstated,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will aggressively pursue any foreign government that attempts to divide American citizens and poison our democratic process.”

Ionov is charged with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Read the Justice Dept release here.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Correction: The title of this story was changed from “SPY CAPTURED” to reflect the fact that Ionov has been indicted, but is not yet in U.S. custody.

Ty Ross
News journalist for Occupy Democrats.

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