Russian defendant rejects US charges of alleged electoral interference



FILE PHOTO: A voter casts his ballot in Pennsylvania's primary election at a Sinai Temple in Dresher, Pennsylvania, United States, May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah Beier
FILE PHOTO: A voter casts his ballot in Pennsylvania’s primary election at a Sinai Temple in Dresher, Pennsylvania, United States, May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah Beier

MOSCOW, Aug 2 (Reuters) – A Russian man accused by the United States of orchestrating years-long maneuvers to use political groups to sow discord, spread propaganda and interfere in the country’s elections said the accusations against him are a politically motivated nonsense.

Alexander Ionov was accused of conspiring to have US citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government, the United States said. If he is found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison. He was also punished.

“These charges are complete nonsense,” Ionov, 32, told Reuters from Moscow. “When I read the charges against me, I felt like I was reading some kind of artistic story.”

“I didn’t pay anyone any money,” Ionov said. “The decision to open a criminal case against me is a political decision.”

Ionov denied ever working for or on behalf of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the KGB espionage service, or coordinating his actions with the FSB.

The US Justice Department said it had acted on behalf of the FSB to financially support political groups in Florida, Georgia and California, get them to publish pro-Russian propaganda and promote Russian interests.

Ionov said he had a lawyer in the United States, but given the sanctions, he was unable to pay American lawyers, so his right to defense had been effectively removed by the United States.

The US Treasury said the Russian Anti-Globalization Movement, founded by Ionov, had received funding from Russia’s National Charitable Fund.

Ionov said that his movement only received money from the state twice, between $60,000 and $80,000 in total and about 8 years ago, and that he used it to hold international conferences.

(1 dollar = 60.1500 rubles)

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge; translation by Flora Gómez)





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