Convicted Russian agent back in Moscow after US deportation

Moscow, Aug. 5, 2019 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting outside Moscow, Russia, on Aug. 5, 2019. Russia will start the full-scale development of missiles banned by the collapsed Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty if the United States begins to do so, President Vladimir Putin said Monday. (Sputnik/Handout via Xinhua/IANS)

Moscow, Oct 26 (IANS) Convicted Russian agent Maria Butina arrived in Moscow on Saturday following her deportation from the US, where she served most of an 18-month prison sentence.

The 30-year-old was arrested in July 2018 on suspicion of espionage and later pleaded guilty to conspiring against the US, reports Efe news.

She had been accused of trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, a gun lobby group heavily associated with the Republican Party.

She agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department and was given a sentence of 18 months at the beginning of the year, including nine months she had spent in custody during the trial.

At the time, President Vladimir Putin railed against the decision and denied she had been connected to Russian intelligence.

The Russian Foreign Ministry published comments Saturday upholding Butina’s innocence and said the “harsh” conditions she had been held in played a role in her “partial” admission of guilt.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Butina wove a network of influential contacts in the country to the benefit of the Kremlin in an operation that began in March 2015 and that ended only with her arrests three years later.

She served her sentence in a low-security prison in Tallahassee, Florida and returned to the Russian capital on an Aeroflot flight from Miami.

US officials released her on Friday.


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