Accused Russian Agent Entered U.S. on Student Visa

July 17, 2018

A Russian national who was charged Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia without registering as a foreign agent entered the U.S. in 2016 on a student visa.

Maria Butina is accused of working under the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government to develop relations with American politicians to establish “back-channel” lines of communication that could be used to advance Russia’s interests. An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint also says that Butina and the official sought to advance Russia’s interests “by establishing relationships with American political organizations,” including an unidentified gun rights organization.

The Washington Post reported that the descriptions in court papers match published reports about Butina’s interactions with the National Rifle Association. The Post reported that Butina, who is 29 years old, recently earned a graduate degree from American University.

The Post quoted Butina’s lawyer, Robert Neil Driscoll, who denied the allegations that she acted as a foreign agent and said she was simply networking to develop relationships with Americans. Driscoll said that Butina testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session earlier this year and offered to cooperate with the government.

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