Maria Butina, who studied at American University in Washington
and is a founder of the pro-gun Russian advocacy group Right to
Bear Arms, was charged in a criminal complaint on Monday with
conspiracy to take actions on behalf of the Russian government.
Tuesday's grand jury indictment added a more serious charge of
acting as an agent of the Russian government, which carries a
maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The conspiracy charge
carries a maximum five-year prison term.
Butina has not been charged with espionage or with being a
member of a Russian intelligence service.
She was arrested on Sunday and is scheduled to appear on
Wednesday in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department
Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, said she was not a
Butina is accused of operating at the direction of a high-level
official of the Russian Central Bank who was recently sanctioned
by the U.S. Treasury, the Justice Department said.
Court records did not name the official.
Butina has appeared in numerous photographs on her Facebook page
with Alexander Torshin, the deputy head of Russia's Central Bank
who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April.
A person familiar with the matter has told Reuters that Butina
worked for him as an assistant. Other media reported on a
business relationship between Butina and Torshin.
Torshin did not reply to a request for comment on Monday and the
Russian Central Bank declined to comment.
The Justice Department said in its complaint that Butina worked
with two unnamed U.S. citizens and the Russian official to try
to influence American politics and infiltrate a pro-gun rights
The complaint did not name the group, however photos on her
Facebook page showed that she attended events sponsored by the
National Rifle Association. The NRA did not reply to a request
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh and Diane Craft)
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