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Iranians charged with threatening US voters, Belarus-Poland border cleared

Nov 18, 2021


The Justice Department announced Thursday it has charged two Iranians “for their involvement in a cyber-enabled campaign to intimidate and influence American voters, and otherwise undermine voter confidence and sow discord, in connection with the 2020 U.S. presidential election”. The suspects are Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian. According to a Justice Department news release, they are accused of:

  • Obtaining confidential U.S. voter information from at least one state election website
  • Sending threatening email messages to intimidate and interfere with voters. The emails were generally aimed at intimidating Democratic voters in battleground states so they would vote for then-President Donald Trump.
  • Spreading a video containing disinformation about “purported election infrastructure vulnerabilities”
  • Trying to get into several states’ elections websites
  • Hacking a U.S. media company’s computer network

“The allegations illustrate how foreign disinformation campaigns operate and seek to influence the American public,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in the news release. “The Department is committed to exposing and disrupting malign foreign influence efforts using all available tools, including criminal charges.”

The Iranians charged with intimidating voters are not in custody and are believed to still be in Iran. Officials hope the indictment and accompanying sanctions will restrict their ability to travel.

In Belarus, authorities cleared the main camps where migrants had huddled at the Polish border Thursday. The video above shows one of the migrant camps Thursday. The news comes two days after Polish forces unleashed water cannons and tear gas on the migrants.

“There were 501 attempts of illegal border crossing from Belarus in the last 24 hours,” Polish Border Guard Col. Anna Michalska said Thursday. “This means the total number of such attempts in November exceeded 6,000 and 35,000 in total in 2021. For comparison, last year at the same time we had 90 attempts in total since January.”

Hundreds of the migrants who have been cleared are Iraqis who were looking to reach the European Union via the border. According to a spokesperson for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, 374 passengers boarded a flight back to Irbil’s airport on a flight from Minsk. The video above shows scenes from the flight’s departure and arrival.

“The others who stay in Belarus, continue to insist on the humanitarian corridor to Western Europe, first of all, to Germany,” said Natalya Eismont, a press secretary of the Belarusian president. “They are categorically refusing to fly, but we will work on it.”

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in Warsaw Thursday suggestions that Germany would be ready to receive some 2,000 migrants entering the EU via Belarus was “false information.”

“We will see this more often in the near future. Pressure is exerted with false reports,” Seehofer said. “This message is wrong.”

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General: “On the situation on the border between Belarus and Poland, but also we’ve seen similar situations a bit earlier on the border between Belarus and two other NATO allied countries, Lithuania and Latvia, this is something which is deeply concerning. We are following and monitoring closely the developments, and we are consulting also with our allies, those allies historically affected, we stand in solidarity with Poland and Latvia and Lithuania.”

“The Lukashenko regime in Minsk, they are now using innocent, vulnerable people as a mean of hybrid tactics against neighbours, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, and this is cynical, this is inhumane, and actually it puts lives at risk the way they are now using people, vulnerable people in an effort to put pressure on neighbour countries.”

“Let me first make it clear that NATO’s military presence in the Eastern part of the alliance is absolutely defensive, it is transparent, and it has been there for several years, and what we now see from Russia is an unusual concentration of force, large number of troops close to Ukraine’s border, and we have seen that they are willing to use force against neighbours, so that’s absolutely a different thing than a defensive presence of NATO troops in NATO countries, and they have never engaged in anything like what we have seen from the Russian side against Ukraine.”

“What we see close to the borders of Ukraine, but also in Crimea which is illegally occupied by Russia, is a significant military build-up by Russia, they are gradually increasing the number of troops, combat forces, and this is something of course we follow closely, Ukraine is a partner nation of NATO and NATO stands in solidarity with Ukraine, we support Ukraine politically, practically, and of course Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation, we support territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

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