Woman, 29, Arrested in US, Charged With Spying for Russia

Maria Butina accused of acting as covert agent on behalf of senior Kremlin official
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 16, 2018 3:17 PM CDT
US Arrests Woman Who Allegedly Spied for Russia
Court papers unsealed Monday, July 16, 2018, photographed in Washington, shows part of the criminal complaint against Maria Butina. She was arrested July 15, on a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Federal prosecutors in Washington revealed Monday that they have arrested a 29-year-old woman and accused her of acting as a covert agent inside the US on behalf of a senior Kremlin official, the AP reports. The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and just days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a sprawling hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 election. Butina, a Russian national who has been living in the US, was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government and accused of working to infiltrate American political organizations, including the National Rifle Association. The charge was brought by the US Attorney for the District of Columbia and does not appear to stem from Mueller's investigation.

According to court papers, Butina met with US politicians and candidates, attended events sponsored by special interest groups—including two National Prayer Breakfast events—and organized Russian-American "friendship and dialogue" dinners in Washington with the goal of "reporting back to Moscow" what she had learned. Court papers do not name the Kremlin official. The person is described as a member of the Russian legislature who later became a top official in the country's central bank. Prosecutors also note that the official has since been sanctioned by the US. 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, US media accounts have reported.

(More Russia stories.)

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