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Russian spy who was active in GOP politics and NRA gets 18-month sentence

After her sentence is up, she will be deported

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Russian spy Maria Butina has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Who is Maria Butina?

Butina (whose first name is sometimes spelled Mariia) is a 30-year-old Russian citizen who moved to the United States and became active in Republican politics. While she was living in Washington, D.C., Butina attended events including National Rifle Association conventions, rallies for President Donald Trump, and the National Prayer Breakfast. She also studied at American University.

She was arrested on July 15 in Washington, D.C., and charged "with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General."

Butina pleaded guilty in December to trying to promote Russian interests before the 2016 election. She said she had been gathering intelligence on the NRA and other conservative groups.

What happened now?

On Friday, Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She will receive credit for the nine months previously served. After her sentence is finished, she will be deported. She is currently being held in a prison in Alexandria, Virginia.

Judge Tanya Chutkan said that what Butina had done "was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student." The conduct was sophisticated and penetrated deep into political organizations," she added.

In their sentencing memo, U.S. government prosecutors wrote:

Butina was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. Acquiring information valuable to a foreign power does not necessarily involve collecting classified documents or engaging in cloak-and-dagger activities. Something as basic as the identification of people who have the ability to influence policy in a foreign power's favor is extremely attractive to those powers. This identification could form the basis of other forms of intelligence operations, or targeting, in the future.


What did she say?

"I deeply regret this crime," Butina said on Friday during her hearing. "Ironically, it has harmed my attempts to improve relationships between the two countries."

One last thing…
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