On July 19, Maria Butina, a Russian national, was arrested under the suspicion of being involved in a Russian conspiracy to infiltrate American political organizations. Butina’s arrest is being crucially examined because it comes at a very tense time. The announcement of the official charges occurred on the exact day that President Trump and President Putin met in Helsinki.
Prosecutors allege Butina, the 29-year-old activist, participated in a long-term scheme to infiltrate various organizations such as the National Rifle Association since she arrived in the country in August of 2016. Prosecutors believe Butina’s activism was part of her role as a covert Russian agent. They also believe her actions were motivated by an interest in advancing the goals of the Kremlin in her home country.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has strongly stated his disapproval with Butina’s arrest in a phone call to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He claims the charges against the Russian citizen are “fabricated” and unacceptable. He also stressed the importance of releasing the suspect from police custody promptly.
A social media campaign titled #FreeMariaButina has been launched, but the suspect will remain in police custody. Magistrate Deborah Robinson agreed with prosecutors that Butina was at risk for fleeing the country, so she will likely remain in custody until her court date. Prosecutors alleged that Butina’s apartment was filled with packed boxes when she was arrested, and it is possible she was planning on going back to Russia. Butina, on the other hand, argues she as preparing to move to South Dakota with her boyfriend. She has plead not guilty to all charges.