Arrested Russian Woman Said to Have Ties to Spies

No grounds for arrest of suspected Russian agent in U.S., Russia's foreign ministry says
Accused Russian agent traded sex for influence, prosecutors say

19 July, 2018

The filing also says that Butina viewed her relationship with "U.S. Person 1" as a "necessary aspect of her activities" and that she expressed disdain for having to live with him.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said there were no grounds for her arrest, and that its embassy in Washington has requested a meeting with Ms Butina.

The allegations were made in court filings on Wednesday that successfully persuaded a judge to have her held without bail.

Prosecutor Erik Kenerson told the court that "the evidence is overwhelming the defendant was here on behalf of the government of carry out a covert influence campaign".

Up until she planned to leave the country last week, Butina relied on a web of people, including Russian spies, oligarchs, a Russian diplomat and an American she offered sex to in exchange for political access to help her spy efforts, prosecutors said in the new filing. "We do not have an extradition treaty with Russian Federation". A 2015 poster shows her holding an automatic rifle and a handgun, pointing out that Russian laws allow rifles but ban handguns for self-defense, and asking, "Where is the logic?".

The wider geopolitical context involving the United States and Russian Federation shouldn't have any bearing on Butina's specific situation, he argued. She awaits trial on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russian Federation. According to the documents she had terminated her apartment lease, packed her boxes, visited a U-Haul truck rental facility and transferred $3,500 to an account in Russian Federation.

She also had contact information for people who investigators believe were employees of Russia's Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB. "She poses with toy pistols while you are being published with real ones".

Chapman, another red-haired Russian woman who was arrested for being unregistered foreign agent, was deported to Russia in 2010 as part of a prisoner swap after pleading guilty to conspiracy.

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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. "What can I say!"

Authorities have not named the Russian official, but details in the court papers match the description of Alexander Torshin, a former legislator who is now a senior official in the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Authorities added that Butina has ties to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy.

Butina allegedly arranged dinners in Washington and NY and tried to develop relationships with American politicians to establish "back channel" lines of communication to "penetrate the USA national decision-making apparatus", the Justice Department's complaint said.

In documents seized by the FBI, Butina "complained about living with U.S. Person 1", they wrote.

In court documents, Butin's alleged Russian handlers remain unidentified.

He declined to comment on the separate fraud case, and Erickson has not returned several calls from Reuters for comment.

"What should not go unnoticed is that all this happened shortly before the bilateral summit in Helsinki, of course, with the obvious goal of diminishing its positive effects", Zakharova noted. Erickson is a close friend and business partner of Butina's who counseled her on securing meetings with other high-level officials in conservative politics, according to the affidavit and previous reporting by The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone.

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