A report obtained by Reuters documents meetings held in April 2015 in which accused Russian spy Maria Butina, Alexander Torshin (who was the Russian Central Bank Deputy Governor at the time), Stanely Fischer (who was Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time), and Nathan Sheets (who was Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs at the time) were in attendance. As part of their official duties, Fischer and Sheets met with many international banking officials.
The meetings were arranged by the Washington foreign policy think tank known as the Center for the National Interest and fell about a year after the Obama Administration imposed sanctions on Russia because of its annexation of Crimea. The center has a history of supporting pro-Russian views. In February of the same year Dimitri Simes, the center’s Russian-born CEO, met with Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials in Moscow.
During their April trip, Butina and Torshin also participated in a discussion held at the center about the “Russian financial institution and its impact on Russian politics.” This discussion was characterized as “off the record.” Former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, who was the center’s chairman emeritus, moderated the discussion. The two also met with Republican Texas Congressman Randy Weber during their visit.
David Keene, a former NRA president and former chairman of the American Conservative Union, was also part of the think tank and has been photographed with Butina on multiple occasions.
The report documented all of the think tank’s activities from 2013 to 2015 that were related to Russia and described the intent of the meeting as a discussion of U.S.-Russian economic relations and an attempt to bring together “leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia.”
Butina worked for Torshin as his interpreter during this time period and attended several Washington events in this role. Fischer confirmed the meetings to Reuters but indicated he did not recall details, only that they were about the Russian economy and Torshin’s new role in the Russian Central Bank. This may shed new light on existing allegations against Butina that she conspired with two Americans and a top Russian official to influence U.S. policy on Russia and infiltrate a gun rights group that’s believed to be the National Rifle Association (NRA) as the description of the Russian official in that indictment matches Torshin’s appearance. The indictment states that Butina and this official conspired to “advance the interests of the Russian Federation.” Fischer confirmed that he recalls Torshin saying he would be attending an NRA event but added that he didn’t make much of it as he didn’t feel it was related to anything under discussion between them.
The think tank’s director, Paul Saunders, acknowledged that Torshin spoke at an event in April 2015 but said that neither he nor anyone in the organization recalled any details about his speech. He added, “We were unaware of any charges or suspicions of illegal or inappropriate conduct or of any connections to Russian intelligence services.”