The Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted a Russian national charged with sowing discord and spreading propaganda in the U.S. while attempting to interfere with elections.
From late 2014 until early 2022, Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov engaged in a “foreign malign influence campaign.” He is the founder and President of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), funded by the Kremlin. Using his influence, he recruited political groups from Florida, Georgia, and California and influenced them on Russia’s behalf.
“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 Olsen.
However, the relationship was not just one-sided. Ionov helped fund the groups while directing them to promote Russian propaganda. For example, Ionov funded a four-city protest tour in support of the “Petition on Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States,” a petition submitted to the United Nations at Ionov’s direction.
Ionov also used his influence over U.S. political groups to promote Russian disinformation. Specifically, groups hosted him for video conferences where he likened supporting Ukraine to supporting Nazism and white supremacy.
“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,” according to the DOJ.
The U.S. government took a hard look at Russian propaganda and disinformation spreading efforts, particularly after the 2016 election that put former President Donald Trump in power.
“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 Polite.
More recently, Russians also indicated their intentions to influence the 2024 Presidential election and potentially the midterm elections.