Tale of sex, deception emerges about suspected Russian spy

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She's the latest Russian to be charged in an expanding investigation that on Friday led to the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers who allegedly stole and disseminated emails from Democratic groups.

She was due to appear in a Washington federal court Wednesday.

"Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russian Federation, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States", the government's attorneys wrote.

An FBI affidavit submitted along with a criminal complaint against Butina last week said she and US Person 1 worked together to arrange introductions to other Americans who are influential in US politics, "including an organization promoting gun rights ... for the goal of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation".

Kremlin-backed Russian television calls her the "ideal victim" of anti-Russian hysteria in the U.S.

The woman, Maria Butina, has been in regular contact with Russian intelligence, the Justice Department says, and she attempted to offer sex in exchange for a position with an organization she targeted.

In recent weeks, Butina was planning to move money outside of the United States, had her Washington apartment lease ending July 31 and was packing boxes, prosecutors said.

An alleged Russian spy is said to have exchanged sex for a position within a special interest organisation.

Butina is also well-connected to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy, according to prosecutors who allege her Twitter messages, chat logs, and emails refer to a known Russian businessman with deep ties to Putin's administration and who was listed in Forbes as having a net worth of US$1.2 billion.

In March 2017, following news coverage of Butina, the Russian official wrote, "Are your admirers asking for your autographs yet?" You have upstaged Anna Chapman. "She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones", according to the court filing.

Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. "Happenstance and the (sometimes) global reach for the NRA placed me in a position a couple of years ago to slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin's Kremlin", he wrote in a May 2016 email to Rick Dearborn, who was a staffer of then-Sen.

Citing her intelligence ties, the government successfully argued that Butina poses an "extreme" risk of fleeing the country, where she has been living on a student visa.

"The defendant's legal status in the United States is predicated on deception", they wrote in a filing Wednesday.

It said Butina and the official sought to develop relationships with USA politicians to create "back channel" lines of communications that could be "used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the USA national decision-making apparatus". This person was "instrumental in aiding her covert influence operation, despite knowing its connections to the Russian Official".

She has been accused of working with a high-powered Russian official and two unnamed American citizens, trying to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the United States and influence the United States' foreign policy toward Russia.

"This happened with the obvious task of minimising the positive effect" of this week's Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

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