ST. PETERSBURG, October 11. /TASS/. Russian national Maria Butina who was arrested in Washington, DC, in mid-July tries to focus only on "relatively positive aspects" of her confinement in a US prison during phone calls with her relatives, her sister Marina told TASS on Thursday.
"Unfortunately, I could not get in touch my sister personally. She tries to phone me every week, but during each attempt, the phone call is interrupted for some obscure reason. She is unable to get through to my parents every time she tries to do so. She is having a hard time, our family feels that from the telephone conversations with her. However, she tries to support us even from there, trying to focus only on relatively positive aspects of her prison conditions," she said.
According to Butina, among the "positive aspects" of her sister’s detention in a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, where she was transferred from Washington in mid-August, is the fact that "she no longer spends 22 hours per day in solitary confinement, when she could leave only from 01:00 to 03:00." "She is not woken up every 15 minutes during the night, the way it was during one month. Now she is allowed to communicate with other prisoners and make calls to us during the daytime," she said, adding that Maria was taken out for a walk last week for the first time in two and a half months.
On August 18, Butina’s Defense Attorney Robert Driscoll said she had been transferred from a Washington jail to a prison in Alexandria, Virginia. He stressed that he had not been notified of the transfer beforehand, and the reasons behind the move were not explained to him.
Maria Butina, 29, entered the US in August 2016 on a student entry visa and took up studies at the American University. She was arrested in Washington, DC, on July 15. The Russian gun rights advocate faces charges of conspiracy for conducting activities in the interests of a foreign state. According to the US Department of Justice, she is suspected of acting "as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation."
In a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded Butina’s early release from custody emphasizing that charges against her were trumped-up. For her part, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow would keep on fighting to defend Butina’s rights and legitimate interests.