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Russian Woman Charged Under U.S. Foreign-Agent Law

RFE/RL July 17, 2018

WASHINGTON -- U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman and charged her with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government.

In court filings in U.S. federal court in Washington, D.C., prosecutors said 29-year-old Maria Butina worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, the deeply influential gun lobbying organization.

Butina allegedly met with U.S. lawmakers and candidates and attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast.

She also allegedly helped organize Russian-American "friendship and dialogue" dinners in Washington and reported back to a Russian government official in Moscow.

The official is not named in the U.S. court papers but was described as working "at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank."

That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with.

Butina was charged under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law originally set up to fight Nazi propaganda. In recent years, enforcement of the law, known as FARA, has been lax, but that has changed amid U.S. concerns of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

It wasn't immediately clear if the case against Butina was directly connected at all to an investigation being carried out into alleged Russian meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election by the Justice Department's Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though the charges were brought the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.

Among the most prominent people to face charges under FARA is President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller last year.

The charges against Butina were announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S President Donald Trump.

Source: meddling-arrest-butina/29368578.html

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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