FBI says St Pete group recruited as Russian agents in US influence campaign

ST. PETERSBURG -- FBI agents have raided the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg in what they say is a wide-ranging investigation into Russian influence in U.S. politics.

Federal prosecutors say a Russian agent named Alexander Ionov recruited the African People's Socialist Party, Uhuru's parent organization, to spread propaganda on Ukraine and other topics, and that Russian agents funded a couple of city election campaigns in St. Petersburg, in 2017 and 2019.

The indictment says Ionov has been conducting an influence campaign to "sow discord and interfere with elections" since 2014. Prosecutors say Russia has recruited groups around the world .
The Uhuru movement called its own news conference, saying leaders of the pan-African activist movement were handcuffed and arrested in St. Louis.

The spokesperson called Russia's war in Ukraine a "defensive" war against colonial powers targeting Africa and called the raids "a propaganda campaign against Russia. "(We) will unite with any forces in the anti-colonial struggle," the spokesperson said. "We can have relationships with anyone we want."

Uhuru founder Omali Yeshitela, who grew up in St. Petersburg and has called the city home for most of his life, spoke to reporters in St. Louis, MO. He acknowledges attending a conference in Russia and says his group supports Russia's position in what he calls the "defensive war" in Ukraine. "We are not pacifists... don't tell us we can't have friends you don't like... Yes, I've been to Russia, I've been to South Africa, I've been to Ghana... because black people need not to be isolated... this government would have us isolated... with no one to turn to except Joe Biden."

The Uhuru organization is not explicitly named in the federal indictment and no individuals associated with it have been charged.

Photo: Getty Images

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