Russian ‘spy’ Maria Butina seeks donations for defence

Washington : A Russian gun rights supporter who built up a network of powerful Republican contacts while studying at a university in Washington has launched a fund-raising campaign to pay for her defence against espionage allegations.

Maria Butina, 29, got a website developed to raise money for her case after being arrested last month by counterintelligence agents and charged with acting illegally as an unregistered agent for the Russian government. “I’m Maria and I need your help,” the website says, with pictures of the smiling redhead at different sites around the US.

The native of Siberia came to the US to gain a master’s degree from American University, and while there “she championed peace and positive relations between her homeland and the United States,” the website says.

“But after graduating with honours, she was arrested by the US government for crimes she did not commit.” The website did not indicate how much money she had raised so far.

In court filings the Justice Department called Butina a “covert Russian agent” who maintained contacts with Russian spies and pursued a mission “to penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.”

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