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Prosecutors: Maria Butina Tried to Trade Sex for Access

Feds lay out more allegations against accused Russian spy
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2018 1:43 PM CDT
Prosecutors: Maria Butina Tried to Trade Sex for Access
In this photo taken on Sunday, April 21, 2013, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – The US government on Wednesday continued to flesh out its case against the 29-year-old Siberian woman accused of spying for Russia, and its most recently revealed allegations include offers of sex and contacts with the spy agency that succeeded the KGB. Prosecutors laid out the allegations in documents filed Wednesday in court in an attempt to have Maria Butina detained until her trial; a judge on Wednesday afternoon denied her bail, the Huffington Post reports. Characterizing her as an "extreme" flight risk, the documents noted she has access to money and cited surveillance video that indicated she was actually planning to leave. The AP reports her apartment lease is up at the end of the month and her belongings were already boxed at the time of her arrest. More:

  • The Anna Chapman reference: The FBI uncovered Twitter communications between Butina and a Russian official identified by NPR and CNN as Alexander Torshin, whom the US sanctioned in April. NPR reports he was allegedly her point of contact within the Russian government. One alleged message from Torshin sent in March 2017: "You have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols while you are being published with real ones."

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  • And another: Butina allegedly sent Torshin a photo showing her near the Capitol on the day of Trump's inauguration. His alleged reply: "You're a daredevil girl! What can I say!" The AP reports Butina replied, "Good teachers!"
  • More on Torshin: He was part of a group sanctioned due to their ties to Vladimir Putin and the hand they had in "advancing Russia's malign activities." He has been a National Rifle Association life member since 2012.
  • Her other alleged connections: Per CNN, prosecutors allege Butina was in contact with members of the Russian FSB, the successor to the KGB, and that she also communicated with a billionaire who she referred to as her "funder."
  • What each side alleges: Butina's lawyer says she was simply a student studying at American University who "at most" was trying to strengthen relations between the US and Russia. Prosecutors allege Butina had been instructed to use contacts she was forging at the NRA and conservative groups to amass info on US officials and politics.
  • Sex: The court papers reference a Person 1 with whom Butina had a relationship; NPR identifies him as political fundraiser Paul Erickson. But the FBI alleges Butina "offered an individual other than Person 1 sex in exchange for a position with a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with Person 1." That organization was not named.
(Read more Russian spies stories.)

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