Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina held without bail

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina held without bail

It is not mentioned in the indictment, but Helson's affidavit cited a 2015 email in which Butina told "U.S. Person 1" that "Political Party 1 " would likely obtain control over the U.S. government after the 2016 elections, that the party had a central role in the "Gun Rights Organization" and that the unnamed gun organization was "the largest sponsor of the elections to the U.S. congress, as well as a spnosor of the CPAC conference", an annual conservative political gathering.

Butina appeared Wednesday in federal court in Washington after being indicted by a US grand jury on criminal charges of conspiracy to take actions on behalf of the Russian government and acting as a foreign agent.

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 also showed a handwritten note found at Butina's apartment referencing an employment offer from a Russian intelligence agency and a photo of her standing in front of the US Capitol on the day of President Trump's inauguration.

"Based on this and other evidence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes that the defendant was likely in contact with the FSB throughout her stay in the United States", prosecutors wrote.

A judge on Wednesday ordered an accused Russian agent jailed until her trial after USA prosecutors argued she has ties to Russian intelligence and could flee the United States.

The Russian official is believed to be Alexander Torshin, deputy head of the Russian Central Bank and a target of USA sanctions since April.

Driscoll referred to the South Dakota resident as Butina's boyfriend and said she had planned to move there to be with him, but then she was arrested.

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The 29-year-old is alleged to have been in contact with Russian intelligence officials and spoke to wealthy Russian oligarchs to fund her trip to America, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI uncovered messages shared in March 2017 between Butina and the official, who is presumably Torshin, after media articles were published about her exploits as a gun rights activist.

"Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russian Federation, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States", prosecutors wrote. "Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with US Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with US Person 1".

Butina and Torshin founded the Right to Bear Arms, a gun advocacy organization modeled on the NRA, in 2012.

The document continued, saying that even if Butina was only planning on leaving the immediate DC area, US Person 1 was her "sole real tie" to the US.

Torshin, who became an NRA life member in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted in April by Treasury Department sanctions for their associations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and their roles in "advancing Russia's malign activities". This person was "instrumental in aiding her covert influence operation, despite knowing its connections to the Russian Official".

"What should not go unnoticed is that all this happened shortly before the bilateral summit in Helsinki, of course, with the obvious goal of diminishing its positive effects", Zakharova noted. Authorities added that Butina has ties to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy.

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