Alleged U.S. Cult Members Accused of Working for Russian Spies

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Russian agents recruited members of three U.S. political groups to spread propaganda and interfere with elections, federal prosecutors allege.

A new indictment, unsealed Tuesday, accuses four Americans and three Russian nationals of an effort to act as unregistered foreign agents on behalf of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The four Americans are members of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and its subsidiary group, the Uhuru Movement. One of those defendants is also the leader of the Black Hammer organization, an alleged cult that is also under fire for accusations of kidnapping, sexual assault, and keeping a teenager’s corpse in its home base.

The defendants are accused of laundering pro-Russian talking points, like support for Russia’s war on Ukraine, through ostensibly left-leaning American organizations. Some of those allegations emerged this summer, following the indictment of one of the Russian defendants, Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov.

The latest indictment further alleges that Ionov and Russian colleagues paid members of the APSP and the Black Hammer party to attend conferences and protests, beginning in 2015. In May of that year, an APSP leader allegedly traveled to Russia and “entered the APSP into a partnership” with the Russian defendants, “knowing that [they] were agents of the Russian government.”

After that all-expenses paid trip, the APSP allegedly acted on Russian agents’ behalf to draft and promote a petition accusing the U.S. of genocide against people of African descent. The Russian agent paid the APSP $500 for the document, according to the indictment.

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