By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Russian operative has been charged with using political groups in the United States to advance pro-Russia propaganda, including during the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the Justice Department said Friday.
Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov is charged in federal court in Florida with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against him Friday, accusing him of giving money to organizations that he and Russian intelligence services thought would create a political disturbance in the U.S. and also looked into ways to support an unspecified 2022 gubernatorial candidate.
“Ionov allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign, turning U.S. political groups and U.S. citizens into instruments of the Russian government,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement.
The case is part of a much broader Justice Department crackdown on foreign influence operations aimed at shaping public opinion in the U.S. In 2018, for instance, the Justice Department charged 12 Russian nationals with participating in a huge but hidden social media campaign aimed at sowing discord during the 2016 presidential election won by Republican Donald Trump.
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