The Russian government is reportedly demanding the release of alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, while criticizing the United States government for the way she has been treated.
As noted in a report from the Hill, the U.S. government has accused Butina as acting as an unregistered foreign agent. But representatives from the Russian Embassy insist that Butina is being held on “trumped-up charges” and is being kept in solitary confinement in an attempt to “intimidate” her.
The Russian Embassy’s statement added that the country will continue to demand the release of Butina, who was referred to as a political prisoner.
“We will continue demanding the release of Maria, victim of the blatant outrage. If our American partners think they can comment on the detention of people who violated Russia’s state border, they should start by commenting [on] the situation around the political prisoner held in their country.”
The embassy is also pushing back against the Trump administration’s criticism of Russia’s dealings with Ukraine. Per the Guardian, Trump used the confrontation in the sea off of Crimea as an excuse not to keep his formal meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit.
While the Russian government continues to say that Butina is being railroaded, the federal prosecutor doesn’t see it that way, because she is also accused of attempting to set up backchannel communications between her government and sympathetic and connected people within the United States.
One big question I have is whether Trump had met Maria Butina prior to July 2015 and knew she was going to ask him at FreedomFest about his views on Russian sanctions—which gave him a chance to publicly make an assurance to Putin. He'd met Butina's boss just a few months earlier. pic.twitter.com/6aNlzDvl5H— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) December 6, 2018
The U.S. government is arguing that Butina is a flight risk, thus allowing her out on bail would be a mistake. Officials have said that, especially with the level of interest from the Russian government, they are certain she would flee.
“All of Butina’s known personal ties, save for those U.S. persons she attempted to exploit and influence, reside in the Russian Federation. Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States.”
Butina isn’t the only one in this matter under a microscope, as her boyfriend, a Republican politico named Paul Erickson, is now facing additional scrutiny, per the Daily Beast. Erickson recently learned that he could also face charges of spying on his own government for the Kremlin at Butina’s behest.
It is possible that Erickson will be charged under Section 951 of the U.S. code, which is the law barring U.S. citizens from acting as secret agents of a foreign government, as explained by the Cornell Legal Information Institute.