ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Uhuru House Chairperson Chairman Omali Yeshitela held a press conference Monday afternoon to explain why they believe their properties were raided back in July.
Federal investigators confiscated items from the Uhuru House in Downtown St. Petersburg and six other Uhuru properties last year as part of an investigation into the group’s interactions with Russia.
“They come here, they raid this building, they knock down the doors, use grenades, they raided our archives, they took our devices,” Yeshitela said.
A 24-page indictment details a seven-year international scheme allegedly orchestrated by the Russian government.
Federal investigators said Aleksandr Ionov set up a political operation at the Uhuru house as he was working for the Russian Federal Security Service. On Monday, Yeshitela said he previously met Ionov at an international conference.
“I know him because I attended a conference that was called by the Anti-Globalization Movement.
The indictment said Ionov gave money to Uhuru and other political groups and even used Uhuru’s news network to host a webinar, spreading Russian propaganda and influencing local elections.
“I ain’t ever worked for Russia never, never,” Yeshitela said.
So far, members of the Uhuru movement have strongly denied the accusations. Yeshitela claims the group is being target solely because of their beliefs which focus on battling oppression around the world.
Since the raids, Yeshitela says the group has been sanctioned financially as Pinellas County revoked funds previously approved for their radio station and a bank closed their accounts.
“All of that stuff is happening, we’ve been sanctioned,” Yeshitela said.
On Aug 4, members of the Uhuru movement lashed out against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a federal investigation into their alleged dealings with the Russian government, denying all accusations.
“Their explanation for the attack is this absurd fabrication of our party and leaders being some puppets for the Russian government, but we know this isn’t true,” Akile Anai of the Uhuru movement said.
However, the group still defends its relationship with Russia.
“Uhuru woman we are against world colonial powers, that’s what we are against,” Anai said to a crowd in July. “And if Russia is against anti-colonial powers then we support Russia.”
The FBI declined to comment on this story as the investigation remains active.