'Russian spy' Maria Butina faces second accusation
All charges totaled, in the United States the 29-year-old Russian citizen faces up to 15 years in prison. That said, according to Maria Butina’s lawyer, the violations of the law she is accused of are not qualified as espionage.
The US authorities formally accused Russian woman Maria Butina, detained on July 15, on two counts - conspiring to work as an undeclared foreign agent and involvement in such activities from at least 2015, the site of the District Court for the District of Colombia reports.
The District Attorney of the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, has signed the indictment against Butina, 29.
"Butina worked under the direction of a high-level Russian official and tried to arrange introductions to US persons influencing American politics, including an organization promoting gun rights, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation," the indictment made public on the site of the District Court reads.
The investigation calls Butina’s superior a high-ranking statesperson who was previously a parliamentarian, and now holds a high post in the Central Bank and is currently under sanctions. The American media specify that this may refer to Deputy Head of the Bank of Russia Alexander Torshin, who was previously Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.
Meanwhile, according to lawyer of the Russian citizen Robert Neil Driscoll, who is cited by TASS, there is nothing new in the US authorities’ accusation. To interpret the second point that appeared in the indictment as an extension of the charges on the merits would be incorrect. However, conspiracy for unregistered activities in favor of a foreign state on the territory of the United States, which Butina was initially charged with, is punishable under US law by a fine or imprisonment of up to 5 years, and the activity in the role of a foreign agent without the knowledge of the US Attorney General implies imprisonment of up to 10 years. That said, the charges brought against Butina are not qualified as espionage. Today the court of Washington is to officially read these charges against Maria Butina.
The detention of Maria Butina, a Russian citizen, public activist and member of the board of organization Right to Bear Arms, in Washington became known on July 16. Initially, the media informed that she was accused of spying for Russia.
The lawyer of Butina, who has lived in the US since 2016 on a student visa, said yesterday that his client had not tried to influence the policy of the United States and had worked "only to promote a better relationship between the two nations."
The Head of the Russian Federation Council Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, called Butina's detention "a reaction of American security officials to the results of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Helsinki," guaranteeing the detainee support in case her Russian citizenship was confirmed. According to the Russian embassy in the United States, the US authorities still do not let consular staff see the woman.
Initially, the defendants in the case had been charged with embezzlement through swindling in the amount of 225 million rubles ($3.3 million). In the final version of the indictment, the article was changed to 1.5-billion-ruble ($22.45 million) embezzlement.