Russian Maria Butina made a deal with the investigation and pleaded guilty to the court on one of the two charges that she was charged with in the United States - in collusion to deceive or damage this country. On this point, she faced up to five years in prison, but now, according to American media, she would be released much earlier. NBC writes that Butina can be given up to six months in prison, after which she is deported to Russia.
The prosecutor's office also accuses Butin of being engaged in promoting Russia's strategic interests in the United States and was not registered as a “foreign agent”. The punishment for this crime is up to 10 years in prison.
Butina made an almost unprecedented deal
In Russia, Maria Butina was the leader of the movement “The Right to Arms”, which spoke in favor of expanding the rights to possession of short-barreled rifles. The movement collaborated with the National Shooting Association of the United States (NRA). In 2015, Butina entered the American University in Washington for a master's program in international relations. According to the American investigation, using connections in the NRA, she tried to establish contacts with Donald Trump's entourage.
Alexander Torshin, a former member of the Federation Council, who also worked at the Central Bank until recently, is called curated by Butina in Moscow. Through Boutin, he contacted "American persons No. 1 and No. 2," as they are named in the case.
“Person No. 1” is Paul Erickson, an activist of the Republican Party, with whom, according to investigators, Butin has “dual” relations: in addition to business contacts, they had a romance. “Person No. 2” is supposedly a descendant of the Rockefeller family, John O'Neill, Jr.
The Washington Post also talked about Buta’s communication with one of Donald Trump’s campaign staff members, Jay Dee Gordon, who was considered a likely candidate for Trump’s “transition team” before the 2016 elections.
Maria Butina was arrested at the end of July. She was in solitary confinement in northern Virginia and, until today, refused to admit her guilt. American media say that Russian agents rarely go to cooperate with the investigation in the United States, and the achieved deal is almost unprecedented.
In Russia, Butina is called the victim of the “medieval inquisition”
By making a deal with the investigation, Butina agreed to testify against her American partners. Erickson has already received a notice that an investigation has been launched against him. Butina also confessed that in March 2015 she sent to her friends in the leadership of Russia the “Description of the diplomatic project”, in which she stated that she had already established an “unofficial channel of communication” with the next US administration and asked for 125 thousand dollars for further work.
CNN quotes Steve Hall, who was previously responsible for the Russian direction in the CIA. He doubts that Butina was a staff member of any of the special services of Russia. In his opinion, she was not a spy "in the spirit of the cold war" and in fact only served as a liaison between American politicians and "someone in the Russian leadership." Now, according to CNN, the investigation will focus on understanding how important Butina’s work was for Russia's alleged interference in the American elections.
Before the court session, the representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, compared the actions of the American authorities with the “medieval Inquisition”. Vladimir Putin spoke about the Butina case at a meeting of the Human Rights Council on December 11. “I interviewed all the leaders of our intelligence services, who is this? - said the president of Russia. “No one knows anything about her at all.”