Butina Indicted For Conspiracy Against US, Failing To Register As Russian Agent

Prosecutors said on Wednesday the FBI has information that Maria Butina has been in contact with Russia's FSB spy agency for as long as she has been in the United States

Prosecutors said on Wednesday the FBI has information that Maria Butina has been in contact with Russia's FSB spy agency for as long as she has been in the United States

Butina, 29, was charged with conspiring to act as an agent of Russian Federation "by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organisations having influence in American politics", the Justice Department said.

The filing also says that Butina viewed her relationship with "U.S. Person 1" as a "necessary aspect of her activities" and that she expressed disdain for having to live with him. Meanwhile, she reported her activities back to Torshin via email, Twitter direct message and "other means", per the filing.

She was arrested on Sunday and is scheduled to appear on Wednesday in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department said.

Butina is accused of operating at the direction of a high-level official of the Russian Central Bank who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, the Justice Department said. "She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones", according to the court filing.

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.

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.

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Maria Butina, who studied at American University in Washington and is a founder of the pro-gun Russian advocacy group Right to Bear Arms, was charged in a criminal complaint on Monday with conspiracy to take actions on behalf of the Russian government. According to court papers, the Russian official responded, "You're a daredevil girl!"

It said Butina and the official sought to develop relationships with USA politicians to create "back channel" lines of communications that could be "used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus".

She is known as a protege of Alexander Torshin, a Russian former state banker, who met Donald Trump Jr for dinner at the NRA's 2016 convention. The NRA did not reply to a request for comment.

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. Butina's attorney, Robert Driscoll, has called the allegations "overblown" and denied his client was a Russian agent.

Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist who has been accused by the American government of being a spy, allegedly offered sex to an unnamed official in exchange for a job with an unnamed "special interest organization".

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