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Butina's Next Stop: Russia

Russian operative will be deported after being freed from prison
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2019 2:53 PM CDT
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Maria Butina, shown last year, was released from federal prison in Florida on Friday.   (Alexandria Detention Center via AP, File)

(Newser) – Maria Butina, the Russian who pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a clandestine foreign agent by making connections with the Trump administration, NRA, and other conservative heavy-hitters, has been freed from federal prison. She was turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation Friday, NPR reports. Butina was sentenced to 18 months last December, minus time already served, and held at a low-security prison in Florida. She had only been "building peace," she said in an interview after her conviction. Her president, Vladimir Putin, was critical of the prosecution and called the sentence an outrage.

The judge in the case saw it differently, saying Butina ran a sophisticated operation. "This was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student," she said, per CNN. Prosecutors said she worked with the Russian domestic intelligence service to build ties with conservative US political leaders, gaining access to the NRA especially. Her activities evidently weren't part of the Russian campaign to interfere in the 2016 election. Butina plans to return to Siberia and her hometown. (An investigation found the NRA effectively became a foreign asset.)

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