Four Americans and three Russians were charged by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida, with conspiring with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to carry out a multi-year campaign of foreign hostile influence in the United States.
According to Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, “Russia’s foreign intelligence service allegedly weaponized our First Amendment rights – freedoms Russia denies its own citizens – to divide Americans and interfere in elections in the United States.”
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said, “The department will not hesitate to expose and prosecute those who sow discord and corrupt U.S. elections in service of hostile foreign interests, regardless of whether the culprits are U.S. citizens or foreign individuals abroad. Efforts by the Russian government to secretly influence U.S. elections will not be tolerated. As today’s announcement demonstrates, the Criminal Division is committed to eradicating foreign malign influence from the U.S. political system and helping ensure the integrity of our elections.”
Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division stated, “Today’s announcement paints a harrowing picture of Russian government actions and the lengths to which the FSB will go to interfere with our elections, sow discord in our nation and ultimately recruit U.S citizens to their efforts. All Americans should be deeply concerned by the tactics employed by the FSB and remain vigilant to any attempt to undermine our democracy. The FBI remains committed to confronting this egregious behavior and ultimately disrupting our adversaries and those who act on their behalf.”
DOJ said in a statement, “According to the superseding indictment returned in the Middle District of Florida, Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a resident of Moscow, was the founder and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), an organization headquartered in Moscow, Russia, and funded by the Russian government. Ionov allegedly utilized AGMR to carry out Russia’s malign influence campaign. Ionov’s influence efforts were allegedly directed and supervised by Moscow-based FSB officers, including indicted defendants Aleksey Borisovich Sukhodolov and Yegor Sergeyevich Popov.”
This is an absolutely remarkable – and chilling – indictment. Several American black leftist groups and activists are being charged with felonies for posting memes and other political content against the war in Ukraine, protesting racial injustice: allegedly on behalf of Russia: https://t.co/SQ1K1VZG1v— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 19, 2023
The superseding indictment claims that Ionov, Sukhodolov, and Popov conspired, among other unlawful acts, to directly and significantly influence democratic elections in the United States in 2019 by secretly supporting and managing the political campaign of a specific candidate for local office in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Ionov allegedly ran a multi-year campaign of foreign influence against the United States from at least November 2014 through July 2022. Ionov is accused of recruiting individuals from political organizations in the United States, such as the African People’s Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement (collectively, the APSP) in Florida, Black Hammer in Georgia, and a political organization in California (referred to in the superseding indictment as US Political Group 3), to take part in the influence campaign and represent Russia in the country. These accused defendants include the following:
Omali Yeshitela, a US citizen who was the chairman and founding father of the APSP and currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri;
APSP component leader Penny Joanne Hess, a US citizen with residences in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri;
Jesse Nevel, a citizen of the United States who lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, and who participated in an APSP component; and
US citizen Augustus C. Romain Jr., alias Gazi Kodzo, was a key figure in the APSP and the creation of Black Hammer in Georgia. He lived in Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Here's one of the leaders of one of the groups who is now indicted, Omali Yeshitela of @_InPDUM, speaking at a "Peace in Ukraine" rally last month.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 19, 2023
Criminalizing speech is becoming increasingly common by claiming the speech serves Russia's interests:https://t.co/i9kmkLYykr
They each might get a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if found guilty. In the event of a conviction, a federal district court judge will weigh the U.S. Guidelines for sentencing and other legal considerations.