WASHINGTON: The United States has charged Russian national Alexander Ionov, the founder and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, with conspiring to have US citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government, the Justice Department said on Friday.
"An indictment was unsealed today in Tampa, Florida, charging a Russian national, working on behalf of the Russian government and in conjunction with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), with allegedly 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 press release said.
As alleged in the indictment, 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.
"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 Department of Justice will not allow Russia to unlawfully sow division and spread misinformation inside the United States."
According to the indictment, Ionov -- working under the supervision of the FSB and with the Russian government's support -- recruited political groups within the United States, including U.S. Political Group 1 in Florida, U.S. Political Group 2 in Georgia, and U.S. Political Group 3 in California, and exercised direction or control over them on behalf of the FSB.
Specifically, Ionov provided financial support to these groups, directed them to publish pro-Russian propaganda, coordinated and funded direct action by these groups within the United States intended to further Russian interests, and coordinated coverage of this activity in Russian media outlets. Ionov also relayed detailed information about this influence campaign to three FSB officials.
"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."
According to the indictment, Ionov allegedly targeted U.S. Political Group 1 based in St. Petersburg, Florida. In May 2015, Ionov funded an all-expense paid trip to Russia for the leader of U.S. Political Group 1 (Unindicted Co-Conspirator-1, UIC-1) in order to "communicate on future cooperation" between U.S. Political Group 1 and AGMR. Following that trip, and for at least the next seven years, Ionov exercised direction and control over senior members of U.S. Political Group 1.
"The prosecution of this criminal conduct is essential to protecting the American public when foreign governments seek to inject themselves into the American political process," said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. "We will continue to work with our partners at the FBI to investigate these events, and we will continue to follow the evidence to ensure justice is done."