Accused Russian spy pleads guilty to conspiracy

Maria Butina in 2013 speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow Russia

A woman accused of acting as a Russian agent to infiltrate a powerful gun lobby group and influence the United States' policy towards Moscow has pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy. "It seems to me, in this case, if they wanted her to register they could have just said, 'Ms". He tells Russian news agencies that the charges against 30-year-old Maria Butina were trumped up and that she's fallen victim to what he calls "political inquisition".

The 30-year-old purported gun rights activist came to the US on a student visa in 2016, and allegedly worked to develop and "exploit" relationships with politically influential figures and organizations, including the NRA.

Butina, who has been jailed since her arrest in July, agreed to remain behind bars pending sentencing.

Butina's efforts, which continued after she moved to Washington as a graduate student at American University in 2016, included asking whether the Russian government was ready to meet her contacts.

Court documents detail how Butina saw the Republican Party as prime for Russian influence and courted conservatives through networking and contacts with the NRA.

Butina's lawyer has argued she is simply a student interested in better U.S. -Russia relations.

Butina could be deported after doing time, but may also be eligible for supervised release if she stays in the USA, the judge suggested. In 2015 she attended a Trump campaign event in Las Vegas, asking the presidential candidate about his views on USA sanctions against Russian Federation.

Butina allegedly developed a personal relationship with an NRA-linked Republican activist, Paul Erickson, and lived with him.

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The charge of conspiracy opens the possibility that other people could also be charged in the case.

Butina pleaded guilty to the statement of offense, which said that early as March 2015 and until 2018, Butina worked with Russian officials to infiltrate and influence US political groups, most notably the National Riffle Association. "And she posed no threat to the United States, no threat to the secrets of the United States", Kovalik said.

You can read Butina's plea agreement below.

Prosecutors write in the filing that Butina knew that Torshin "sometimes acted in consultation" with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in one case telling Butina that he did not think the MFA would "go for it" on an attempt to "create a dialogue with the then-President Elect's advisors". Her cooperation could lead to a reduced punishment.

They say she worked to develop relationships with American politicians through her contacts with the National Rifle Association. Trump's meeting with Putin that month inspired very different reactions on the right: the alt-right cheered Trump's positive rapport with the Russian president, while Sen. Reuters previously reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at Washington parties that she could use her political connections to help people get jobs in his administration. Prosecutors expect the deal will give them information about Russia's efforts to interfere in USA politics.

Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow.

Torshin, a high-ranking official of Russia's Central Bank, is considered a political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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