US charges 29-year-old Russian woman with acting as Kremlin agent

Frederick Owens
July 17, 2018

Mariia Butina, also known as Maria, who was involved with a Russian gun group that the National Rifle Association was supportive of, was arrested on Sunday and appeared in court in Washington, DC to Monday, according to the Justice Department.

Court papers unsealed, July 16, 2018, photographed in Washington, shows part of the criminal complaint against Maria Butina. 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.

Mueller didn't file the charge against Butina, but court papers show that her activities revolved around American politics during the 2016 campaign and included efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association and American politicians to gather intelligence for Russian Federation.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office announced the charges.

Butina, 29, has been cooperating with various government authorities "for months regarding public allegations related to her contacts with various American and Russian individuals" and "months ago" voluntarily testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight hours, her attorney, Robert N. Driscoll, said in a statement Monday.

Butina is a Russian gun rights advocate who founded a pro-gun organization in that country, the Right to Bear Arms, in 2011 and who has been involved in coordinating in recent years between American gun rights activists and their Russian counterparts, USA media accounts have reported.

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On Friday, a grand jury in Washington indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking Democratic computer networks during the 2016 US presidential election with the goal of disrupting the vote.

Ms Butina sought to foster ties with an "organisation promoting gun rights", the DOJ said.

The unsealing of the charges against Butina came within hours of a stunning press conference in which President Donald Trump refused to say he accepted the assessment of the US intelligence community over Putin's denials that Russian meddled in the election. In truth, Helson wrote, "Butina continued to act as an agent on behalf of the Russian Federation" and an unnamed Russian official. It also claims that she "founded a gun rights organization in Russia [The Right to Bear Arms] that grew to over 10,000 members".

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Butina hosted several leading NRA executives and pro-gun conservatives at her group's annual meeting in 2015, according to those reports.

During the hearing, the Post reported, Driscoll said Butina's home was searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in April and that she had testified for eight hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session months ago.

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