Russian accused of influencing American political groups

According to a Justice Department statement, Alexander Viktorovich Ioannov allegedly conducted a “year-long foreign malicious influence campaign that used various American political groups to sow discord, spread pro-Russian propaganda, and interfere with elections within the United States.” was done for.”

CNN has reached out to Ionov for comment.

Prosecutors allege that the plot was intended to establish ties that would “advance the interests of the Russian Federation.” Ionov, the indictment alleges, worked with FSB agents to “identify and exploit” links with American political groups.

The indictment describes certain US political groups based in Florida and California as “separatist groups” that advocated separation from the US, and alleges that Ionov had “direction or control over these groups on the part of the FSB”. was providing financial support for the group and using them to publish pro-Russian and separatist propaganda online and on the radio.

The indictment says six US citizens worked with and funded Ioannov, including two unidentified Florida residents who ran for public office in 2017 and 2019.

The non-conspirators reportedly worked to promote Russian interests, leading separatist movements in California and pro-separatist political groups in the US, all with funding from the FSB.

According to the indictment, Ioannov supported the 2019 campaign of these alleged co-conspirators for local office in Florida and participated in campaign events and provided funding. Ionov also reportedly sent updates to FSB agents about the progress of the operation, which Ionov reportedly wrote to the FSB, “we monitor.”

The indictment alleges that Ioannov advanced false claims about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of a conspiracy, including a video appearance allegedly of Ioannov at a March video conference organized by the Florida-based group. Is.

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The US Treasury Department also announced sanctions on Friday against Ionov and Natalya Valeryevna Berlinova, the heads of organizations and their organizations allegedly affiliated with the Russian Intelligence Service.

“The Kremlin has repeatedly sought to threaten and undermine our democratic processes and institutions,” Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Fund, said in a statement Friday. “The United States will continue our comprehensive work to counter these efforts and protect our democracy from Russian interference.”

Ionov is charged with breaching the law, with Ionov facing a maximum prison sentence of five years.

The indictment references media reports that described Ionov as fundraising to protect Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to acting as a foreign agent in an attempt to influence US gun rights groups. Prosecutors allege Ionov was warned by an FSB agent who commented on an article in 2019 that sanctions could be imposed against him.

The indictment points to several episodes of alleged influence campaigns. In 2015, a member of the Florida-based group, identified as a non-conspirator UIC-1, traveled to Russia on two occasions – the first, to meet Ionov, and on the second occasion, to participate in a “separatist conference”. To pick up ” in Moscow, according to the indictment. Also that year, Ionov reportedly worked with another member of the Florida-based group on a petition to be sent to the United Nations.

The alleged conspiracy continued until 2016, prosecutors say, with Ionov’s request that the Florida-based group organize tours of four cities to show that people are opposed to the “American colonial government” and that the group participated in the Russian Olympics. Statements made supporting the team. amid a doping controversy that year.

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The indictment also accuses Ionov of emailing members of the California-based group about plans to perform in California’s state capital in 2018. Ionov reported the demonstration to an FSB agent, who complained that the rally was not a “historic one”. performance, the indictment said.

“Prosecution of this criminal conduct is essential to protect the American public when foreign governments seek to inject themselves into the American political process,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Florida Roger B. Handberg, where the indictment was handed down, said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our partners in the FBI to investigate these incidents, and we will continue to follow up on evidence to ensure justice.”

CNN’s Donny O’Sullivan contributed reporting.

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