U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland makes announcement on JetBlue-Spirit merger at the Justice Department in Washington
Attorney General Merrick Garland Reuters


  • FBI raided the homes and offices of individuals suspected to be working for the Kremlin
  • Political organizations across the US were identified as being Russian government-funded
  • A Florida mayor said the city will not condone the illegal activities

Federal authorities have charged four Americans affiliated with a Black empowerment organization, along with three Russians living in the U.S., for pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda and illegally interfering in the elections.

The four arrested Americans are all part of the African People's Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement, with headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, an indictment unsealed on Tuesday showed.

The case is related to an ongoing charge at a Federal Court in Tampa, Florida, against Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, the founder of a Russian government-funded Moscow-based organization tasked to influence electoral campaigns in the U.S.

Authorities said that aside from the two groups, several other political organizations did Ionov's bidding, such as the Black Hammer in Georgia and an unidentified California-based organization. All of which have been identified as sowing discord and influencing U.S. politics.

"From at least November 2014 until July 2022, Ionov allegedly engaged in a years-long foreign malign influence campaign targeting the United States," the Justice Department said.

"Ionov allegedly recruited members of political groups ... to participate in the influence campaign and act as agents of Russia in the United States."

They also allege that Ionov's work is supervised and directed by officers of Russia's intelligence service, the FSB.

Among the U.S. citizens arrested is Omali Yeshitela, the chairman of the African People's Socialist Party and leader of the Uhuru Movement. His home was raided by FBI agents after Ionov was charged.

Yeshitela and the three other U.S. citizens -- Penny Joanne Hess, Jesse Nevel and Augustus C. Romain Jr. -- have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

Yeshitela, Hess and Nevel are also charged with impersonating agents of a foreign government, while Ionov and the two arrested Russians in custody will face fraud conspiracy charges.

"Russia's foreign intelligence service allegedly weaponized our First Amendment rights — freedoms Russia denies to its own citizens — to divide Americans and interfere in elections in the United States," said Matthew Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, in a statement.

"The [Justice Department] will not hesitate to expose and prosecute those who sow discord and corrupt U.S. elections in service of hostile foreign interests, regardless of whether the culprits are U.S. citizens or foreign individuals abroad."

St. Petersburg, Florida, Mayor Ken Welch also expressed concern over the activities of the arrested individuals, saying that the city will not tolerate the illegal activities of the arrested individuals.

On Tuesday, the DOJ also indicted Russian national Natalia Burlinova in Washington for allegedly conspiring with the FSB to recruit American academics and researchers to attend programs and travel to Russia to advance its interests.

Prosecutors claim that Burlinova's activities were funded by the Russian government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting Mariupol
Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting temporarily occupied Mariupol KREMLIN.RU/Reuters