4 US Black Nationalists Charged With Conspiring With Russian Intelligence in ‘Malign Influence Campaign’

April 19, 2023 in News by RBN Staff


Source: NTD

By Ryan Morgan

A seal reading “Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation” is displayed on the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington, DC, o August 9, 2022. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)


The U.S. Department of Justice has charged three Russian nationals and four U.S. citizens connected to black nationalist movements with taking part in a malign influence campaign in the U.S. on behalf of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) intelligence agency.

The four U.S. citizens charged are Omali Yeshitela, Penny Joanne Hess, Jesse Nevel, and Augustus C. Romain Jr., aka Gazi Kodzo.

Yeshitela, Hess and Nevel are members of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), also known as the Uhuru Movement. Romain is the leader of the Black Hammer Party, according to the DOJ.

The four U.S. citizens are accused of working with Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, Aleksey Borisovich Sukhodolov, and Yegor Sergeyevich Popov, who are Russian nationals accused of working on behalf of the FSB and the Russian government.

All seven are charged with conspiring to recruit U.S. citizens to act as illegal agents of the Russian government in the Unites States. Yeshitela, Hess, Nevel are themselves charged with acting as agents of Russia within the United States without prior authorization.

Ionov, Sukhodolov, Popov, Yeshitela, Hess, Nevel, and Romain face a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted of conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of a foreign government. Yeshitela, Hess, Nevel face also face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted of acting as agents of Russia in the United States without prior authorization.

According to the DOJ, one focus of the alleged influence campaign was “to create the appearance of American popular support for Russia’s annexation of territories in Ukraine.”

Uhuru and Black Hammer

The APSP or Uhuru movement was established in 1972, with Omali as one of its original co-founders. A website for the APSP lists a party platform, which was adopted in 1979 and amended in 1981, that denounces what it describes as “U.S. and western European political, economic, and military interference in the affairs of Africa and African people around the world.”

The APSP platform also denounces capitalism and calls for the United States and European nations to pay reparations to African countries and their descendants. The APSP platform further calls for an end to taxation of black people in the United States.

The Black Hammer Party was founded in 2019 by Romain, who goes by the name Gazi Kodzo. The organization says its mission is to “take the Land Back for all colonized people worldwide.”

The extremist organization also lists a set of principles denouncing capitalism and colonialism, and stating “the Colonized Proletariat is the only true proletariat” and “only through our leadership can white power, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and all its symptomatic offspring be smashed.”

Alleged Ties To Russia

A federal indictment (pdf) alleges the Russian nationals were in contact with Yeshitela, Hess, Nevel, and Kodzo for several years. The Russian nationals allegedly paid for Yeshitela to travel to Russia in 2015. Ionov also allegedly prompted Hess to draft and promote a “petition on Genocide of African people in U.S.” Ionov also allegedly prompted the APSP to issue a statement in 2016 opposing a proposal to ban the Russian national team’s participation in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ionov is the founder of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), an organization headquartered in Moscow, Russia, and funded by the Russian government. According to federal prosecutors, Ionov used AGMR as a tool to advance Russia’s malign influence campaign.

In July of 2017, Ionov allegedly reached out to Nevel, who was a candidate for mayor of St. Petersburg at the time. Ionov allegedly requested an interview with Nevel to talk about “reparations” and proposed lending support to Nevel’s campaign, including “campaign finance,” through AGMR. It was not clear from the charging documents if Nevel’s campaign accepted this support.

At Ionov’s invitation, Yeshitela allegedly spoke at a 2020 conference in the so-called “Donestk People’s Republic,” an area along the border of Ukraine and Russia that Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists have been fighting over since 2014.

After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ionov contacted the APSP members with a message declaring that “Russia has exhausted all possible tools to prevent conflict” in Ukraine. Ionov said the war truly began in 2014 when United States and European Union member nations promoted a change in political leadership in Uktaine, and that “pro-Western neo-fascists” had “burned people in Odessa and shot thousands of civilians in the Donbas.”

Thereafter, the APSP hosted Ionov on a March 2022 video conference where he said anyone who supported Ukraine also supported Nazism and white supremacy, and the APSP allegedly issued statements of solidarity with the Russian government.

In June 2022, Romain promoted a demonstration at the Georgia Capitol building in opposition to U.S. support for the war in Ukraine. Romain issued a statement saying, in part, that the United States “is sending Billions of OUR Tax dollars to kill the Russian people who have done us no harm.” Romain subsequently shared the press statement with Ionov and said, “This is the press release! Hope you like it.”

Federal agents searched the homes of Yeshitela, Hess, Nevel and another APSP member during pre-dawn raids in July 2022. Ionov was the first to be indicted in July of 2022, but the two other Russian nationals and four U.S. citizens were indicted in a subsequent superseding indictment on Tuesday, April 18.

“All Americans should be deeply concerned by the tactics employed by the FSB and remain vigilant to any attempt to undermine our democracy,” Kurt Ronnow, the acting assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division said on Tuesday. “The FBI remains committed to confronting this egregious behavior and ultimately disrupting our adversaries and those who act on their behalf.”

Response to Federal Investigation and Charges

NTD News reached out to the APSP and the Black Hammer Party for comment but neither organization responded before this article was published.

In December, the APSP’s official publication The Burning Spear published a statement accusing federal investigators of pursuing bogus and slanderous charges against Yeshitela and the APSP. The organization said “the U.S. government and its ‘Department of Justice’ will attempt to put us on trial and imprison us for fighting for the liberation of African people in the U.S. and around the world.”