US, Russian FMs discuss Helsinki meeting fruits

Maria Butina

The Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights has filed a request with the US Commission on Civil Rights, asking to protect the rights of Russian citizen Maria Butina, says a letter to the commission's chair, Catherine Lhamon.

Investigators say Butina worked for years as a covert Russian agent attempting to "advance the interests of her home country."

"The defendant's covert influence campaign involved substantial planning, worldwide coordination and preparation", prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

In court, the Russian has not admitted the charges against her.

Butina, a gun rights activist, founded a pro-gun group in Russian Federation called Right to Bear Arms, which Butina told the Senate panel was the recipient of Nikolaev's funding, a person familiar with her testimony told the Post. On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry announced a #FreeMariaButina campaign. Prosecutors have said she was in contact with Russian operatives during her time in the U.S.

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Robert Driscoll, Butina's attorney, has pushed back strongly on the accusations against Butina and told CNN on Friday that much of the United States government's case against her was "taken completely out of context".

Maria Butina, the recently indicted Russian national accused of being an agent of Russia, told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year that Russian billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev had backed her financially, a source familiar with her testimony told CNN.

The timing of the charging announcement, however, came on the same day that a summit in Helsinki between Trump and Putin put a spotlight on accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

According to a statement issued by State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert, the phone conversation took place on Saturday when the two foreign ministers discussed a broad range of issues, "some of which were following up from the meeting between President Trump and President Putin" in Finland on July 16. The president's comments prompted lawmaker outrage and the release of a rare statement from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats underscoring Russia's role.

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