Russian 'agent' arrested to undermine Putin-Trump summit

One Russian official asked if her fans were asking for her autograph. Pic Facebook

Image One Russian official asked if her fans were asking for her autograph. Pic Facebook

A federal grand jury indictment returned on Tuesday accuses Butina of partaking in a Kremlin-directed plot to ingratiate herself with US political figures in order to convince them to pursue Russian interests.

Butina was likely in contact with the Russian Federal Security Service, known as FSB, throughout her time in the U.S., prosecutors said.

Two days after her arrest for allegedly acting as "an agent of a foreign government", Russian national Mariia Butina was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington DC on similar charges.

The government's attorneys cited "the nature of the charges, her history of deceptive conduct, the potential sentence she faces, the strong evidence of guilt, extensive foreign connections and her lack of any meaningful ties to the United States".

Maria Butina with envoy Alexander Torshin
Image Maria Butina with envoy Alexander Torshin

Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, spoke to a crowd, April 2013, during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia.

In seeking her detention, prosecutors said Butina's "legal status in the United States is predicated on deception".

Russia's foreign affairs spokesman Maria Zakharova touched on Butina's situation in her weekly press briefing, saying USA law enforcement was making up sensational stories about Russian Federation meddling in United States politics instead of fighting crime.

Per the indictment, Butina allegedly lied on the F-1 student visa application that allowed her to come to the USA for graduate school in 2016. Instead, he said in a Monday statement, she was a high-performing grad student at American University who openly sought to improve U.S. -Russia relations. "You have upstaged Anna Chapman", a "Russian Official" told Butina in a March 2017 private Twitter message, according to new court papers filed Wednesday.

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An FBI affidavit released earlier this week detailed messages recovered from a search of Butina's electronic devices, in which she communicated with an unnamed Russian official and other individuals in the U.S.

US Person 1 is not identified by name, but is widely believed to be longtime GOP strategist and gun rights activist Paul Erickson.

The government says Butina is a flight risk and the court had to consider whether she would flee if she was granted bail.

Her attorney, Robert Driscoll, has said she is not a Russian agent and poses no flight risk, after she was arrested on Sunday without warning.

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Prosecutors say the official directed Butina to use her contacts with the NRA and other conservative causes to gather intelligence on American officials and political organizations.

Prosecutors also said Butina was regarded as a covert agent by a Russian official with whom she was in touch, with text messages discovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showing how the official likened her to Anna Chapman, a Russian woman who was arrested in 2010 and then deported as part of a prisoner swap.

The charges against Butina were obtained on Saturday, court records show, the day after the Justice Department revealed an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democratic politicians in 2016.

Torshin has been described as a mentor to Butina, and both have been actively involved with the NRA in recent years.

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