16 Jan 2019 11:20

Butina unable to call her father from U.S. prison

MOSCOW. Jan 16 (Interfax) - Russian citizen Maria Butina, who is incarcerated in the United States, has been unable to call her father; she can speak only with her mother for technical reasons, the newspaper Izvestia said on Wednesday.

"Maria Butina, who has been accused of interfering in the U.S. policy through lobbying for Russia, has been unable to call her father for two weeks," Izvestia said.

"I cannot understand why this is happening. The prison administration blames a technical malfunction. It is hard to believe that because the United States has been giving this excuse way too often. For now Masha can reach only her mother on the phone. But it is important to have any contact at all," Maria's father, Valery Butin, told the newspaper.

In his words, Maria "has minimized her communication with other prisoners because any activity comes at a high price."

"Back in November she was put in a solitary cell for merely sharing the phone of her lawyer with another girl. Now any dialogue is limited to 'yes' and 'no'. Besides, my daughter in the same block with women convicted of violent crimes. She is trying to talk less and to read more. A person cannot be staring at the ceiling for hours," Butin said.

According to Izvestia, Butina pleaded guilty to the charge of violating the U.S. law on foreign agents at the hearing of December 13, 2018. She is charged with conspiring with a U.S. citizen (presumably, the Republican Party's political consultant Paul Ericson) for the purpose of contacting U.S. citizens with political connections. Butina is facing up to five years in prison, Izvestia said.

The U.S. Department of Justice indicted Butina on July 16, 2018, on the counts of criminal conspiracy and operation as a foreign agent in the United States without properly notifying the attorney general. According to the investigators, Butina had been lobbying for Russia as an agent for a Russian official at least since 2015 and used her personal connections with a U.S. citizen having influence on the U.S. policy.