“This poor girl is jailed … faces 15 years in prison… and for what?” the president asked rhetorically about Butina’s case at a meeting of the presidential council for civil society and human rights. Putin also said he asked all the heads of the Russian intelligence and security services about who she is and whether she had any links to their work. “No one knows anything about her at all,” the president added.
Butina might, in fact, have had some links to the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, Putin admitted, adding that she could have actually worked with some officials there. Still that does not justify the US legal action against her, he added.
This is the first time the Russian leader commented on Butina’s case since she was arrested in summer. A Russian gun-liberties activist who has studied in the US, Butina was accused of being an unregistered Russian lobbyist –basically a Russian agent– after she rubbed shoulders with Republican operatives and gun rights advocates in the US.
Prosecutors also tried to accuse her of trading sex for influence, but had to admit quickly that this charge had no grounds. Yet the media latched on to it, portraying Butina as a femme fatale seducing her way through American political circles to sow division and discord in American politics.
The Russian Embassy in Washington DC has accused American authorities of subjecting her to ‘borderline torture’ conditions, including unnecessary strip searches after every visit, sleep deprivation and of denying the 28-year-old medical treatment for a swelling on her leg. “There are attempts to break her will,” the embassy said.
Earlier this week, released court documents showed that a federal judge scheduled a hearing so Butina can change her ‘not guilty’ plea, which she’d entered in July. The document reads that the parties have resolved the matter, but it is unclear if she will plead guilty to any of the counts. NBC reported on Tuesday that she may admit that she failed to register as a foreign agent, and may then get six months in prison and a deportation order.