The Russian graduate student Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday, for alleged attempts to infiltrate into conservative Republican circles.
According to her lawyer Robert Driscoll, Maria Butina would be able to return to Russia around November as she’s already spent half of her term in custody in the United States.
Maria Butina, 30 years old Russian-activist and a founder of gun rights group ‘Right to Bear Arms’ which promoted legalising of short-barrelled firearms sales to the civilians in Russia.
After graduating US college, she attended National Rifle Association conventions and arranged a trip to Moscow for the group of mostly conservative republicans to meet Russian officials. She posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr., questioned President Trump about his foreign policy with Moscow at the news conference in Las Vegas In early 2017. She also helped set up meetings for a Russian officials to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
US government saw her networking activities as highly suspicious and since Butina failed to register with the U.S. attorney general as a foreign agent her actions were classified as
“dangerous and constituted a threat to US democracy.”
Maria Butina was arrested On July 15, 2018, in Washington, and charged with conspiracy to act as the Russian agent in the United States.
In a sentencing memo, federal prosecutors admitted that although Butina was not a trained intelligence officer.
” the actions she took were nonetheless taken on behalf of the Russian Official for the benefit of the Russian Federation, and those actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.”
At Friday’s hearing Butina spoke to court for several minutes, she expressed regret and asked for forgiveness.
“I deeply regret this crime,” she said. “Ironically it has harmed my attempts to improve relationships between the two countries.”
“I came to the US not under orders but with hope,I sought to build bridges between my motherland and the country that I grew to love.”
“Never did I wish to hurt anyone,” Butina said.
Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney shared his view that the US intelligence services persecuted Butina mainly because she is a Russian citizen.
Driscoll was also asked if he agrees with the opinion that Butina is a political prisoner. “I’m not sure that I’d go so far. I think that in our country there is a generally good legal process. I don’t think she’s in prison just because of politics. However, anyone who thinks that in this situation could not be Russian, self-deception, “- Robert Driscoll said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry however called Washington’s court decision – unbridled anti-Russian campaign in the spirit of McCarthyism in a comment published on Friday.
The Russian embassy also posted on its Twitter account.
“Maria Butina is a political prisoner, a victim of repressive #US justice norms and a provocation masterminded by the U.S. special services”.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website