Russian ‘agent’ Maria Butina, freed by US, arrives in Moscow
Butina arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after leaving Miami, AFP journalists said. She had been held in Florida’s Tallahassee prison.
She was arrested in July 2018 on allegations of engaging in espionage. In December, Butina entered a plea deal on a charge that she acted as an illegal, unregistered foreign agent, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, half of which was credited as already served.
“I am very happy to be home. I am very grateful to everybody who supported me, to the Russian citizens who helped me and wrote letters” on her behalf, an emotional Butina told reporters on her arrival.
“Many thanks to the foreign ministry and to the diplomats who daily fought my corner,” added Butina, her arms clutching several bouquets of flowers as her father and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova escorted her through arrivals.
Butina, a 30-year-old from Siberia, used ties with the NRA firearms lobby to help build a network of high-level Republican contacts.
Those efforts brought her into contact with President Donald Trump before his 2016 election, as well as with one of his sons.
Butina was the only Russian arrested and convicted in a three-year investigation of Moscow’s interference in US politics.
Moscow decried her case as being politically-motivated.
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