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. Butina, a 29-year-old gun-rights activist, served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday, July 16, 2018.
Photo: AP Photo
Photo: AP Photo

Russian government accuses FBI of 'political put-up job' after suspected foreign agent indicted

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the FBI of “implementing a political put-up job” after authorities arrested a Russian national over the weekend on allegations that she illegally acted as an unregistered foreign agent.

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Authorities on Sunday arrested Mariia Butina, a 29-year-old Russian citizen living in Washington, D.C., on suspicion of “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General,” according to the Justice Department. In a criminal complaint released Monday, authorities accused Butina of failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

>> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Russian woman arrested, charged with illegal political activities in U.S.

In a pair of tweets attributed Wednesday to Maria Zakharova, director of the Information and Press Department for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the foreign ministry wrote that officials were dismayed to learn of Butin’s arrest.

“We are dismayed by the reported arrest of Russian citizen Maria Butina in the US on July 15,” Zakharova said, using an alternative spelling of Butina’s first name. “It looks as if the FBI, instead of carrying out their responsibility of fighting crime, is implementing a political put-up job set to it by forces that are whipping up anti-Russia hysteria in the US.”

Justice Department officials allege that Butina schmoozed with influential people and organizations in the U.S. in order to advance the interests of Russia.

“From as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank,” Justice Department officials said Monday in a news release. 

>> Who is Mariia Butina, the woman charged with acting as a Russian agent in the US?

Authorities added that the unnamed official was among the 24 Russian oligarchs and senior Russian government officials sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for profiting from the country’s illegal and subversive activities in the U.S. and abroad. 

Butina was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a hearing. Prosecutors are expected to argue that the 29-year-old should be held without bail ahead of trial because she is a flight risk, NPR reported.

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