A Russian operative backed by the Kremlin was charged with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government, and at least one of the three groups alleged to have “co-conspired” with the agent is a self-described socialist party.
According to NBC News:
Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, who worked with the Russian Federal Security Service and at least three unnamed “Russian officials,” was charged with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government from December 2014 through March of this year, the agency said.
“As court documents show, 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 24-page indictment 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 revelations from the Russian government.
The DOJ said in its statement that Ionov targeted “political groups” in Florida, Georgia and California.
It did not identify the U.S.-based groups. But shortly after the Ionov indictment was announced, the FBI in Tampa confirmed to local media it had raided headquarters of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg, Florida, in connection with the alleged conspiracy.
“The Uhuru Movement is a worldwide organization, under the leadership of African People’s Socialist Party, uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development,” the group said on its website.
The DOJ did not identify the members of the three groups who “co-conspired” with Ionov, but said it was fully aware Ionov and his organization “were agents of the Russian government.”
In May 2015, Ionov sent the “leader” of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg on “an all-expense paid trip to Russia” and for the next seven years “exercised direction and control over senior members,” the DOJ said.