Russian woman arrested in Washington, accused of acting as Russian government agent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 29-year-old Russian woman living in Washington has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian government while developing ties with American citizens and infiltrating political groups, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.

Maria Butina, a student at American University and a founder of the pro-gun rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, is accused of working at the direction of a high-level official who worked for the Russian Central Bank and was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Justice Department said in a statement.

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The court records do not name the official.

However, she is pictured in numerous photographs on her Facebook page with Alexander Torshin, the deputy head of Russia's Central Bank, and a person familiar with the matter confirmed to Reuters that she worked for him.

Torshin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April.

Butina was arrested on Sunday and was ordered held pending a hearing set for Wednesday, it said.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after the indictments were filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�n Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein departs a news conference after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
The U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building is seen after Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after being filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as he appears with Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O?Callaghan during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein takes questions after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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According to the complaint against her, she worked with two unnamed U.S. citizens and the Russian official to try and influence American politics and infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization.

The complaint does not name the group; however, photos on her Facebook page show she has attended events sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

She arranged dinners in Washington and New York City and tried to develop relationships with American politicians in order to establish "back channel" lines of communication to "penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation," the complaint said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Jonathan Oatis)

 

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