27 Apr 2019 11:04

Peskov: Fact itself of Butina's long-term custody unacceptable, she couldn't be involved in what they charged her with

BEIJING. April 27 (Interfax) - The Kremlin has described Russian citizen Maria Butina's long-term imprisonment in the United States as unacceptable and expressed confidence that she couldn't been involved in what the U.S. authorities charged her with, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

"Perhaps, the key word here is that she made a plea deal, but you and I don't know the details of this deal," he told journalists.

"But the fact of her detention and already long-term imprisonment is, of course, unacceptable for us. We believe this Russian citizen was not and could not be, in fact, involved in what they charged her with," he said, responding to journalists' request to comment on Butina's plea deal and the sentence of 18 months handed down to her by a U.S. court.

"But, I reiterate, because we don't know what exactly the plea deal involved, we don't know the nuances, so probably it would be wrong to comment [on it]," Peskov said.

On April 26, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced Butina to 18 months for undeclared activities in favor of Russia's interests in the U.S. Butina will be credited for the more than nine months she has already been held in prison pending trial.

Butina will be deported from the U.S. after she has fully served her sentence. Following the deportation, she would be unable to ask for permission to enter the U.S. for ten years.

A former aide to Russian Federation Council member Alexander Torshin and the founder of the Right to Bear Arms association, Butina entered the U.S. on a student visa, as she studied at American University in Washington until spring 2018. She was arrested on July 15, 2018. The U.S. Justice Department charged Butina with "conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government in the U.S. without prior notification to the Attorney General."

The investigation established that Butina had "conspired to infiltrate" conservative U.S. circles to promote Russian interests, acted as an agent of a Russian government official, and used her personal relations with an American who could influence U.S. politics. Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an illegal foreign agent and concluded a plea deal with the prosecution at the end of 2018.

Speaking in court, Butina said she acted under the direction of a Russian government official to establish unofficial lines of communications with Americans who could influence U.S. politics.