Diplomat emphasizes U.S. ‘espionage’ arrest timed to undercut Putin-Trump summit

Pauline Gross
July 19, 2018

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said there were no grounds for her arrest, and that its embassy in Washington has requested a meeting with Butina.

Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russian Federation "by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics", the statement said.

Butina's attorney Robert Driscoll entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Butina, who appeared in court Wednesday in an orange prison jumpsuit.

Prosecutors outlined in a court document seeking her continued detention how she had maintained a web of people to support her mission in the U.S., and was in touch with employees of the Russian FSB, the spy agency that succeeded the KGB.

Prosecutors also alleged that she used a personal relationship with an unnamed American political operative, with whom she was living, "as simply a necessary aspect" of her covert activities on behalf of Russian Federation.

An FBI affidavit submitted along with a criminal complaint against Butina last week said she and US Person 1 worked together to arrange introductions to other Americans who are influential in US politics, "including an organization promoting gun rights ... for the goal of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation".

The FBI uncovered evidence that Butina appeared to be "in contact with officials believed to be Russian intelligence operatives" during her time in the United States, according to the US.

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

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Maria Butina was arrested in Washington on Sunday and appeared in court in the USA capital on Monday, the Justice Department said in a statement.

She has been accused of working with a high-powered Russian official and two unnamed American citizens, trying to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the United States and influence the United States' foreign policy toward Russia.

The 29-year-old former American University graduate student was set to appear for a preliminary hearing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia this afternoon.

U.S. Person 1, or Erickson, has not been charged with any crimes, which is sometimes an indication that they are cooperating with an investigation. "What can I say!()" Butina responded, "Good teachers!"

On the night of President Donald Trump's election, Butina messaged an unnamed Russian official saying she was "ready for further orders", according to the affidavit released this week.

Other photos show the trio alongside David Keene, who formerly served as NRA president and chairman of the American Conservative Union, a group best known for organizing the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which Butina has reportedly attended as a VIP. The NRA has reported that Torshin had made a "life membership payment" to the organization, but Torshin has claimed that both he and Butina are NRA "life members". He also disclosed that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session earlier this year.

In the filing, the DOJ requested that Butina be detained pending trial, arguing that she does not have strong ties to the United States and could be a flight risk.

Other reports by GizPress

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