US unseals conspiracy indictment against Russia legislator and staffers
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US unseals conspiracy indictment against Russia legislator and staffers

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday announced charges against a Russian legislator and two staff members. The unsealed indictment charges the three individuals with actions undertaken to further Russia’s propaganda in the US over Russian efforts in Ukraine.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams unsealed the charges against Russian legislator Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Babakov and his two staffers, Aleksandr Nikolayevich Vorobev and Mikhail Alekseyevich Plisyuk. The indictment charges the three individuals with conspiracy to have a US citizen act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government in the US, violation of US sanctions, and conspiracy to commit visa fraud. All three individuals are already subject to US sanctions.

According to the statement released by the US Department of Justice, Babakov operates a nonprofit organization, known as ​​the Institute for International Integration Studies, which he uses to influence international actors and further Russian disinformation. From 2012 through at least 2017, Babakov and his staffers allegedly used the nonprofit organization to undermine US sanctions and cultivate relationships with US elected officials. These actions were designed to gain support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that Babakov, Vorobev and Plisyuk used the nonprofit organization to affect US policy towards Russia through staged events, paid propaganda and the recruitment of at least one American citizen (CC-1) to do their bidding in unofficial capacities. The indictment also outlines a series of interactions with various US Congress members through the nonprofit organization.

Commenting on the unsealed indictment, Williams said:

Today’s indictment demonstrates that Russia’s illegitimate actions against Ukraine extend beyond the battlefield, as political influencers under Russia’s control allegedly plotted to steer geopolitical change in Russia’s favor through surreptitious and illegal means in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West. Such malign foreign interference will be exposed, and we will pursue justice against its perpetrators.