Russian gun activist charged with spying in United States for Moscow

Lester Mason
Июля 17, 2018

Mariia Butina, 29, who came to the August 2016 on a student visa, previously served as a special assistant to a Kremlin crony whose description in court papers matches that of Aleksander Torshin. Her earlier work reportedly included assisting Russian central banker and politician Alexander Torshin, who is a lifetime member of the NRA. The official, whose name was not released, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April.

It said Butina and the official sought to develop relationships with U.S. 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".

Neither the political party, nor the gun rights organization are specifically named in this complaint, although analysts have speculated that, judging from context from the entire document (and Butina's known history), the gun rights organization is the NRA. A spokesperson for the University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a November 2016 tweet, Torshin boasted that he and Butina were the only lifetime members of the NRA from Russian Federation.

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At a party in November 2016, Butina claimed that she was involved with the Trump campaign's communications with Russian Federation.

Driscoll denied that Butina was "an agent of the Russian Federation", calling her instead a recent graduate of American University in Washington "with a Masters Degree in International Relations and a 4.0 grade point average". Butina is charged with "conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United Stated without prior notification to the Attorney General", the department said.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee sought to interview Butina during their investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign, but were not able to convince their Republican counterparts to seek interviews with her and several people connected to her.

Mueller, who last week obtained indictments against a dozen Russian intelligence officials for election-related hacking, showed no interest in speaking with Butina, Driscoll said. She told The Washington Post in April 2017 that "no government official has ever approached me about "fostering ties" with any Americans". Among those who attended were former NRA President David Keene, conservative political operative Paul Erickson and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, later a strong Trump supporter.

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