Mariia Butina, speaking on Oct. 8, 2013, during a news conference in Moscow, was arrested on July 15, and is accused with spying for the Russian government. (2013 file photo/STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., issued a news release slamming the U.S. for continuing to hold alleged Russian spy Maria Butina and accusing the U.S. government of "practices that are slightly below torture."
Who is Maria Butina?
Until her arrest on July 15, Butina was active in District of Columbia politics. She was also in continual contact with Russian officials suspected to have been her handlers. One handler was among a list of Russian officials sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury in April 2018.
While in D.C., Butina attended National Rifle Association conventions, went to President Donald Trump rallies, and attended the National Prayer Breakfast. She was charged “with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.”
Butina, 29, is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, after being moved there from a D.C. jail on Friday, and is awaiting trial. Coincidentally, she is now being held at the same jail as former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
What did the Russian Embassy say?
In a news release Saturday, the embassy announced that it was "worried" about the situation with Butina: "Her situation is getting worse. Attempts are obviously made to 'break' her under additional humiliations and psychological pressure."
The news release spoke of her move to a prison in Alexandria, and hit the U.S. with accusations about how she was being treated there:
We have more and more questions to the U.S. justice system. Should allegations pressed against Maria before the actual trial condemn her to practices that are slightly below torture? It seems that the reason behind the U.S. decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council was to give the U.S. authorities green light for such provocations.
Russian diplomats paid our fellow citizen an urgent visit in the new prison. We will continue to strive for Maria’s freedom. The U.S. Department of State will receive another demarche with a rigorous assessment of unacceptability of the methods our citizen has to suffer, demanding a normal, humane response to current developments.
We expect human rights organizations to strictly condemn the U.S. actions. This lawlessness must be stopped.
The Russian Embassy accompanied the news release with the hashtag #FreeMariaButina, which it has been promoting since her arrest.
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