USA arrests, accuses woman of acting as Russian agent

The US government charged a Russian national with being a spy for the Russian government

According to The Washington Post, Butina, a former Siberian furniture store owner, founded a Russian gun rights group called the Right to Bear Arms and became an assistant to Russian central banker and former senator Alexander Torshin. Butina is charged with "conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United Stated without prior notification to the Attorney General", the department said.

She made her initial court appearance Monday afternoon, and was ordered held pending a hearing set for Wednesday. Prosecutors also note that the official has since been sanctioned by the US. He was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in April 2018 and has been accused of links to organized crime, as NBC News has previously reported.

Russian national Maria Butina has been arrested on charges that she has acted as an agent for the Russian government, the U.S. Justice Department announced Monday in an unsealed indictment.

The complaint cited three specific "overt acts" Butina committed to further her conspiracy, including her entrance to the U.S.in August 2016 on an F-1 student visa for the "purported objective of attending university full time in the District of Columbia". She committed these activities without disclosing her status as a Russian government agent, as required by law, according to the press release.

She allegedly tried to advance Russian interests "by developing relationships with USA persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in US politics". The NRA did not immediately return a request for comment.

She allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level Kremlin official.

Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a "private line of communication" ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and "key" officials in an American political party through the NRA.

The complaint does not name the group; however, photos on her Facebook page show she has attended events sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

Previous reporting has suggested that this woman, 29-year-old American University graduate student Mariia Butina, tried to broker two separate secret meetings between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign. He added that she "has been cooperating with various government entities for months regarding public allegations related to her contacts with various American and Russian individuals".

Butina and Torshin did, however, have brief interaction with Donald Trump Jr., who has said the interaction was brief and not memorable, the Post reported.

Butina then accompanied Erickson to Trump's inauguration, one of a number of Russians who attended the festivities and toasted to better relations between Russia and the United States.

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