Three Russians charged in disinformation scheme targeting US lawmakers
Federal prosecutors charged a senior Putin-appointed Russian legislator and two of his staff are running a foreign influence and wrong information network in the United States includes efforts to sway members of Congress.
According to a indictment Sealed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, Aleksander Babakov, who holds the post of deputy speaker of the lower house of the Russian legislature, and two of his assistants, Aleksandr Nikolayevich Vorobev and Mikhail Alekseyevich Plisyuk, are charged with conspiracy conspired to violate US sanctions and recruited a New Yorker- relying on Americans with international relations and media experience to act as an unregistered Russian agent to give them access to elected officials and influence US policy towards Russia.
US Attorney Damian Williams said the accused propagate The campaign was fought “to promote evil Russian political designs” against UkraineUnited States and other countries.
“Today’s indictment demonstrates that Russia’s illegal actions against Ukraine extend beyond the battlefield, as political influencers under Russia’s control are accused of conspiring to drive change.” geopolitics in Russia’s favor through stealthy and illegal means in the US and elsewhere in the West,” Williams said in a statement.
The withholding of the indictment comes as the Biden administration tries to ensure that Russian officials and oligarchs who have been affected by sanctions during the war in Ukraine cannot evade them.
“Our focus in the coming days will be evasion,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at the Economic Club of Washington, DC in the coming days.
All three Russian men in Thursday’s unsealed indictment were charged with one count of conspiring to have an American citizen act as a Russian agent in the United States without notifying the private minister. punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The three men, who were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2017, also face one count of conspiracy to violate and evade US sanctions, an offense that carries a maximum sentence. maximum 20 years.
The defendants are also accused of attempting to fraudulently obtain visas to enter the United States, which could carry an additional five years in prison if convicted.
Starting in 2012, Babakov and two of his deputies planned to undermine the US partnership with its European allies and advance Russia’s efforts to “destroy Ukraine’s sovereignty”. through staged events and paid propaganda, according to the indictment.
The defendants allegedly used a Russia-based non-profit organization, the Institute for International Integration Studies, as side money for their foreign influence campaign, monetized through the nonprofit. profit from at least 2011 to 2019 to pay two European nationals who were former “foreign consultants” charged with carrying out the group’s efforts, the indictment said.
The defendants and Americans allegedly recruited for the scheme allegedly contacted members of Congress from at least 2012 to 2017 and requested meetings with Babakov in order to advance interests. of Russia in the United States.
The indictment states that no US legislator met with Babakov, but his efforts included an offer for an unnamed member of Congress for an “all-inclusive” trip to meet. remove European political figures.
“The Department will not hesitate to prosecute those who seek to covertly influence the American political process and evade US sanctions,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement today. Thursday.
A federal district court judge will decide any sentencing for Babakov, Vorobev and Plisyuk, who are based in Russia but remain on a large scale, the Justice Department said.
NBC News has reached out to the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Institute for International Integration for comment.
Julia Jester contribute.
at Blogtuan.info – Source: nbcnews.com – Read the original article here