Russian ‘agent’ Maria Butina to be released from US prison

Washington, Oct 24 (AFP/APP): Maria Butina, the red-headed gun advocate from Russia who built a network of high-level Republican contacts before being arrested for spying, is expected to return to her country after her Friday release from a Florida prison.

The only Russian arrested and convicted in the three-year investigation of Moscow’s interference in US politics, Butina parlayed ties with the NRA firearms lobby into a network that brought her into contact with President Donald Trump before his 2016 election, as well as with one of his sons.

She said she was on a quest to establish better relations between Russia and the United States, and enrolled in university in Washington while living with a Republican operative.

But she was arrested in July 2018 on allegations she was engaging in espionage, though she had no connection with Russia’s established spy agencies.

In December, Butina, 30, entered a plea deal on a charge that she acted as an illegal, unregistered foreign agent, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, nearly half of which was credited as already served.

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