US slaps sanctions on Russians over election interference

US slaps sanctions on Russians over election interference

WASHINGTON (AFP): Washington on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russians involved in propaganda and disinformation campaigns seeking to disrupt US elections.

In a statement, the Treasury Department said the individuals and organizations raised funds and spread misinformation to disrupt the American electoral process, and were leveraged by Russian intelligence to “create or heighten divisions within the country.”

One of those named, who also faces criminal charges, is connected to an organization already targeted by sanctions for efforts to influence the 2016 president election that brought Donald Trump to the White House.

“The Kremlin has repeatedly sought to threaten and undermine our democratic processes and institutions,” said Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“The United States will continue our extensive work to counter these efforts and safeguard our democracy from Russia’s interference.”

The latest sanctions target Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov and his Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR) and STOP-Imperialism websites, as well as Natalya Valeryevna Burlinova and her Center for Support and Development of Public Initiative Creative Diplomacy (PICREADI) for their work on behalf of the Russian government.

In addition to his own “malign influence agenda,” Ionov cooperates with Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and his Project Lakhta, which were sanctioned for efforts to undermine the 2016 elections, the Treasury statement said.

More recently, Ionov and Prigozhin looked into the “feasibility of directly supporting a specific candidate in a 2022 US gubernatorial election,” while trying to spread misinformation to disrupt the electoral process, it said.

The Justice Department also announced criminal charges against Ionov for “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.

“Secret foreign government efforts to influence American elections and political groups threaten our democracy by spreading misinformation, distrust and mayhem,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr.

Treasury also sanctioned his company, Ionov Transkontinental, which has a footprint in Iran, Venezuela, and Lebanon.

Burlinova’s PICREADI, also known as Creative Diplomacy, receives funding from the Russian government and its intelligence services, which have tracked participants in the annual public policy event called “Meeting Russia.” The conference attracts “aspiring leaders” in academia, analytical centers, media, private sector, and governmental institutions to facilitate dialogue, the statement said.

The Treasury sanctions seize any US-based funds or property owned by the individuals or organizations, and prohibit American-based firms from having any financial dealings with them.

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