Maria Butina: New job offered to agent deported from US

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Maria Butina was offered the job by Russian High Commissioner for Human Rights

Maria Butina, the Russian agent deported from the US, has been offered a job defending Russians jailed abroad.

Butina, 30, was arrested in July 2018 and pleaded guilty to trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a Russian agent.

She was sentenced to 18 months, and deported to Russia in October 2019.

Tatyana Moskalkova, Russian high commissioner for human rights, offered Butina a job working for her, "defending compatriots abroad".

Who is Maria Butina?

She is a pro-gun activist who founded a Russian lobby group called the Right to Bear Arms.

She travelled back and forth from Russia to attend NRA conventions, and in 2015 attended a Donald Trump campaign in Las Vegas.

In 2016, Butina moved to the US on a student visa, to study for a masters degree at American University in Washington DC.

Two years later, she was arrested by the FBI and charged with acting as an agent of the Russian Federation "without prior notification".

Why was she charged?

According to the FBI, in 2015 Butina emailed a proposal called "diplomacy" to US Republican lobbyist Paul Erickson, whom she reportedly dated and lived with.

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Image caption,
Maria Butina was arrested in July 2018

The proposal suggested using NRA links to open unofficial communication lines to American conservatives and influence the Republican Party's foreign policy, which is traditionally hostile towards Russia.

Officials said Butina was directed by Alexander Torshin, an influential former member of the Russian Senate.

Mr Torshin was also investigated over allegations he funnelled money to the NRA in order to influence US conservative politics.

He was put under sanctions by the US in 2018 but never charged.

During her sentencing hearing, Butina expressed regret, telling the court: "I destroyed my own life".

Media caption,
Butina arrived to a flurry of media activity - and was greeted by her father

Butina was freed from a Florida prison in October, and deported to Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

She told reporters: "Russians never surrender", adding she was "very happy to be home".