US Indicts Russian Accused of Promoting California’s Secession

The US authorities have indicted a Russian national for allegedly orchestrating a Kremlin-backed “malign influence campaign” designed to sow discord and interfere in elections.

Moscow resident Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov is accused of conspiring with at least three Russian officials to run the campaign from at least December 2014 until March 2022.

Working under the auspices of the Kremlin-backed Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR) he founded, Ionov recruited several US political groups and “exercised direction or control over them” on behalf of Russian security service the FSB, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

Ionov provided financial support to the groups, persuaded them to publish pro-Russian propaganda, funded direct action by the groups inside the US intended to further Russian interests and coordinated coverage of these protests in the Russian media, the DoJ said.

One of the group’s goals was to promote California’s secession from the United States. Ionov is said to have part-funded its protest demonstration at the California Capitol building in Sacramento and attempted to direct the group’s leader to physically enter the governor’s office.

Ionov is also accused of sponsoring unnamed candidates in local elections in Florida.

The Muscovite is charged with conspiring to have US citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. However, his continued residence in Russia would seem to preclude any formal trial.

“Ionov allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign, turning US political groups and US citizens into instruments of the Russian government,” said assistant attorney general Matthew 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.”

Reports have linked Ionov to Yevgeny Prigozhin, currently under US sanctions for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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