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Accused Russian Spy in US Reaches Deal to Plead Guilty

By Ken Bredemeier December 10, 2018

An accused Russian spy held by the United States on charges of infiltrating Republican Party circles to provide information to Moscow has reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty, court records showed Monday.

Maria Butina, who was arrested in July and detained since then, is set to appear in a Washington court as soon as Tuesday, although the criminal offenses to which she is expected to plead guilty were not disclosed.

The 30-year-old Butina had pleaded not guilty to allegations that she acted illegally as an unregistered agent of the Russian government, using a Russian group she called Right to Bear Arms to build ties to the most powerful U.S. gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, in an effort to promote the Republican Party in the U.S.

Butina allegedly developed a personal relationship with an NRA-linked Republican activist, Paul Erickson, and lived with him. Butina also enrolled as a graduate student at American University in Washington where she earned a master's degree in international relations earlier this year.

But the U.S. Justice Department alleged that Butina was a "covert Russian agent" who maintained connections with Russian spies in a mission aimed at penetrating "the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation." They alleged that her work in the U.S. was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Her attorneys said in the court filings that the case against her has now been "resolved."

Butina's social media accounts showed her mingling with senior U.S. politicians and posing with firearms at national gun shows.

The Butina case is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing, 19-month investigation into whether President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to help him win and whether, as president, Trump obstructed justice to try to thwart the probe.

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