U.S. Department of Justice Charges Russian Agents Linked to American Extremist Organizations
After a lengthy investigation, U.S. citizens were arrested alongside Russian operatives.
Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers remarks to Department of Justice employees.
Official charges have been filed, the Justice Department announced on April 18. The citizens and Russian intelligence operatives were indicted by a grand jury in Tampa, Florida, the Justice Department stated.
Cases and Arrests
United States vs. Ionov, et.al. was returned to the Middle District court in Florida. The indictment returned to the court to explore a years-long case exposing the collusion of a Russian state-linked radical political movement with politically extreme reforming groups based in Florida but with a spread of influence into Missouri, Georgia, and California.
The groups affiliated with the Russian collusion plot have nationwide presence as well as presence in Africa.
The Russian disinformation campaign had the intention to influence U.S. elections. Of the states where the operation had a presence, Florida and Georgia are key swing states in U.S. presidential elections.
The conspirators were confirmed by the Justice Department. The primary conspirator was described as follows:
Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a resident of Moscow, is the founder and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), which is a movement based in Moscow that the Justice Department described as intended to carry out "Russia's malign influence campaign."
The others were detailed by the Justice Department as follows:
Omali Yeshitela, a U.S. citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, who served as the chairman and founder of the APSP;
Penny Joanne Hess, a U.S. citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, who served as the leader of a component of the APSP;
Jesse Nevel, a U.S. citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, who served as a member of a component of the APSP; and
Augustus C. Romain Jr., aka Gazi Kodzo, was a U.S. citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Atlanta, who served as a leader of the APSP and a founder of Black Hammer in Georgia.
Another criminal complaint was unsealed in a court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday. It was detailed as follows:
United States vs. Burlinova
The United States also indicted the following suspect:
Natalia Burlinova, a Russian national, is charged with conspiring with a Russian Federal Security Service, abbreviated FSB, officer to act as an "illegal agent of Russia" in the United States.
What's At Stake
The U.S. citizens and Russian operatives sought to sow "discord," "spread Russian propaganda," and "interfere with elections in the United States.
From Overt Operator's preliminary analysis, the stakes included a Russian government-linked attempt to solicit and exploit radicalized groups across the spectrum of far-left socialist and alt-right political factions.
Among the solicited groups there was the African People's Socialist Party and the Black Hammer Party of Georgia, which was founded by members of the APSP, and swung from far-left to far-right politics in recent years, the Center on Extremism data showed.
The Russian government-linked collusion effort had an overall disinformation agenda. One of the primary plots of this group was the cycle of the U.S. Presidential elections:
"Ionov and Popov allegedly intended that this election interference plot would extend beyond the 2019 local election cycle in St. Petersburg, and subsequently discussed that the "USA Presidential election" was the FSB's 'main topic of the year.'," the Justice Department wrote, in a press release published on April 18.
The Justice Department, as quoted from its press relations office, explained that the group had solicited members for these political groups,
African People's Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement (collectively, the APSP) in Florida,
Black Hammer in Georgia
a political group in California (referred to in the superseding indictment as U.S. Political Group 3
Local Florida Fox 13 News reported that the members of the African People's Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement socialist political movements who were arrested in association with the Russian government conspiracy were located in St.Petersburg, Florida.
The Uhuru Movement's campus in St. Petersburg, Florida was reportedly raided in 2022 by the FBI, as part of the continued investigation into the conspiracy the group had with the Russian government. The Uhuru movement strongly condemned the raid of their property, claiming they were not "puppets" of the Russian government.
The African People's Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement describe themselves as a worldwide organization that seeks to unify "all Black people all over the world as part of one African nation."
The Black Hammer party is a political group seeking to claim the land back for "all colonized people" in the world, its news website explains. In April, the Black Hammer party's website rallied for the release from Fayette County jail of "Gazi Kodzo", which is the alias of Augustus C. Romain Jr., one of the Russian government conspirators.
The group identified Kodzo with right-wing American leaders and claimed that Kodzo was fighting colonization against the "Liberal FBI" that arrested him.
The Anti-Defamation League explained that, while Kodzo had begun as the leader of anti-Colonist heavy left-leaning movement, he began to push an alt-right narrative in 2021, after failing to acquire independent land for the movement in Colorado.
Kodzo has reportedly promoted the activity of the Proud Boys, an far-right movement associated with the events of the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021.