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DOJ Charges Russian National with Conspiring for Kremlin in U.S.

Maria Butina (YouTube)

The Justice Department on Monday announced charges against a Russian national for conspiring to further Russia’s interests in the U.S.

Russian citizen Mariia Butina, 29, was arrested on Sunday in Washington, D.C. and charged with “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General,” the Justice Department said in a statement. She appeared in court there on Monday.

Butina worked from 2015 to 2017 for a “high-level official in the Russian government” who then became a top executive at the Russian Central Bank, authorities said. The Russian official, whom news reports have identified as Aleksandr Torshin, conspired with Butina to “develop relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrat[e] organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation,” according to the charges.

Torshin and Butina had both fostered relationships with American gun-rights groups. Torshin, who was among a number of Russians hit with sanctions by the Treasury Department in April, is known to have run into Donald Trump Jr. at the 2016 National Rifle Association convention in Kentucky. Butina was also heavily involved with the NRA and started a Russian gun-rights group called Right to Bear Arms.

Butina’s attorney, Robert N. Driscoll, denied that she was “an agent of the Russian Federation.”

“There is simply no indication of Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law [of] the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.

Butina faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.

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