Russia says Butina case an ‘act of political blackmail’

Moscow: Moscow considers the arrest of Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina in the United States on suspicion of acting as a foreign agent as ‘an act of political blackmail,’ Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The diplomat recalled that Butina had been placed in a cell for dangerous criminals and had not been released for 22 hours per day, and no medical assistance had been provided to her.

“There is no doubt when one learns about these facts that Butina was clearly shown what she would face in case of her refusal to cooperate with investigators,” Zakharova said.

“By creating intolerable conditions and threatening with a lengthy jail term, they forced our fellow citizen to plead guilty to these absolutely awkward charges.”

“We view Butina’s detention, arrest and custody as political pressure and an act of political blackmail and she is a political prisoner. We are convinced that the criminal case against Butina is linked merely with the desire of certain US political forces to whip up anti-Russian rhetoric, Russophobia and find something that could be used in this situation as confirmation of allegations on some ‘meddling’ of our country in the US domestic affairs,” Zakharova stressed.

Moscow will continue its effort on releasing Butina as soon as possible and bringing her back home, she said.

On December 13, Butina pled guilty to one of the charges on collision aimed at the violation of the laws on foreign agents in the US. She earlier signed documents on a deal with the prosecutors. The court accepted the confession and scheduled the next session under the case for February 12. The date of the sentencing was not announced because of a prosecutor who said that Butina agreed to cooperate with the investigators, and this process may take some time.

Butina was arrested in Washington on July 15, on the eve of the Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The Russian gun rights activist was charged with conspiracy for conducting activities in the interests of the Russian government on the US territory. The investigators claim she engaged in these activities without registering as a foreign agent at the US Department of Justice.