Russian indicted for influence over socialist activists in Florida

A Russian named Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov has been charged with “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.” According to a DOJ press release, Ionov was directed by FSB and gained influence with three separate groups in Florida, Georgia and California.


None of those groups were named in the indictment but the identity of the Florida group was revealed after the group’s headquarters was searched by the FBI. The group in question is part of something called the Uhuru Movement which is run by the African People’s Socialist Party. According to the indictment, Ionov has been working closely with this group for seven years. During that time he brought the group’s leader to Moscow on two occasions. Subsequent emails indicate the Uhuru Movement’s leadership was aware Ionov was working on behalf of the Russian government. They just didn’t care.

In May 2015, he paid for the leader of the St. Petersburg group to travel to Russia to discuss future political cooperation, prosecutors said. For the next seven years, Ionov “exercised direction and control over senior members” of the St. Petersburg group. He used their leaders to foster discord in the U.S., spreading pro-Russia sentiments “under the guise of a domestic political organization,” prosecutors said.

In September 2015, the indictment alleges, Ionov again paid for the leader of the St. Petersburg group to attend a “Dialogue of Nations” conference in Moscow. When he returned to Florida, the leader made clear to group members that Ionov’s organization was an instrument of the Russian government and that they “did not disturb us.”

A week later, in an email discussion, the St. Petersburg group’s leaders wrote that it was “more than likely” that the Russian government was using Ionov’s organization to sew division within the U.S.


Today, after police gave a press conference about the FBI activity, she held her own press conference defending Russia:

Eritha ‘Akile’ Cainion, who ran for mayor and is now the leader of the St. Pete Uhuru group, led the press conference. Cainion defended Russia, saying the U.S. and other “world Colonial powers have been collaborating against Russia for well into the early 1900s.”

“The history of the African People’s Socialist Party is to unite with any forces that unite with the anti-colonial struggle. And we feel that is a just struggle. What this is a propaganda campaign against Russia. We can have relationships with whoever we want,” Cainion said.

Cainion’s press conference lasted about 20 minutes. “What this is is a propaganda campaign against Russia,” she said. “We can have relationships with whoever we want,” she added. The indictment says Ionov acted as a campaign adviser for at least two local candidates for office in St. Petersburg. Ionov told his supervisors in Russia that he was advising at least one of his candidates on a weekly basis. Again, this wasn’t the only group he was involved with.

Ionov also exercised direction and control over U.S. Political Group 3, an organization based in California whose primary goal was to promote California’s secession from the United States. In January and February of 2018, Ionov supported U.S. Political Group 3’s efforts — led by the organization’s founder (UIC-6)—to orchestrate a protest demonstration at the California Capitol building in Sacramento. Ionov partially funded the efforts and attempted to direct UIC-6 to physically enter the governor’s office. Later, Ionov sent various media reports covering the demonstration and U.S. Political Group 3’s broader efforts to FSB Officer 1, writing that FSB Officer 1 had asked for “turmoil” and stating, “there you go.”

According to the indictment, Ionov also directed the efforts of U.S. Political Group 2, based in Atlanta. For example, as recently as March 2022, Ionov paid for members of U.S. Political Group 2 — including its founder (UIC-5) — to travel from Atlanta to San Francisco to protest at the headquarters of a social media company that had placed content restrictions on posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ionov sent UIC-5 designs for signs used at the protest and funded cross-country travel for UIC-5 and other members of U.S. Political Group 2. After the protest, Ionov sent UIC-5 a picture of a Russian news website’s social media page, which displayed a Russian-language news story about the protest.


The indictment doesn’t name them but the Atlanta Journal Constitution identified the Atlanta group as The Black Hammer Party.

According to the indictment, Ionov, who lives in Moscow, paid for members of the Black Hammer Party to travel to San Francisco in March to protest Facebook’s censorship of posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The influence went so far as to direct Black Hammer members on the designs of signs for the protest.

The group livestreamed the protest on its social media channels and accounts of the protest were carried in Russian media. Ionov even posted his appreciation of the Facebook protest on his own Facebook page.

Black Hammer and its erratic leader Gazi Kodzo have made criticism of America’s foreign policy regarding the Russian invasion a centerpiece of their recent social media campaigns, calling Ukraine a white supremacist country and backing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talking points for starting the war.

The indictment does not name the Black Hammer Party, referring to it as “U.S. Political Group 2.” However, details included in the indictment, including the March protest at Facebook and the career path of Kodzo, identified in the indictment as “Unindicted Co-Conspirator 5,” reveal the controversial group as the one allegedly under Ionov’s influence.


Here’s video of the protest in question (NSFW language, also this drags on forever):

Regular readers have heard of the Black Hammer Party before. I wrote about them just over a week ago. Police received a call from someone claiming they’d been kidnapped. When they arrived at the house, group members exited except for one person. When police sent in a robot they found he’d apparently killed himself. The group claimed the dead man was a leader within their group and that he’d been shot by police. But the group’s leader, who calls himself Commander Gazi, was arrested and faces multiple charges including kidnapping.

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David Strom 4:30 PM | May 28, 2024