Accused Russian says U.S. charges of election interference are nonsense

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FILE PHOTO: Voters cast ballots in Pennsylvania primary election

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian man charged by the United States with orchestrating a multi-year effort to use political groups to sow discord, spread propaganda and interfere in U.S. elections said the accusations against him were politically motivated nonsense.

Alexander Ionov was accused of conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government, the United States said. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. He was also sanctioned.

"These charges are complete nonsense," Ionov, 32, told Reuters from Moscow. "When I read the charges against me, I felt that I was reading some sort of artistic story."

"I did not pay any money to anyone," Ionov said. "The decision to open a criminal case against me is a political decision."

Ionov denied that he had ever worked for - or on behalf of - the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the KGB spy service, or that he coordinated his actions with the FSB.

The U.S. Justice Department said he had acted on behalf of the FSB to financially support political groups in Florida, Georgia and California, get them to publish pro-Russian propaganda and further Russian interests.

Ionov said he had a lawyer in the United States but that given the sanctions he was unable to pay U.S. lawyers so his right to defence had been effectively removed by the United States.

The U.S. Treasury said that Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, which Ionov founded, had received funding from Russia’s National Charity Fund.

Ionov said his movement received state money only twice, only about $60,000 to $80,000 in total and around 8 years ago, and used it to hold international conferences.

($1 = 60.1500 roubles)

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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