ST. PETERSBURG, October 11. /TASS/. Relatives of Russian national Maria Butina arrested in Washington, DC, earlier this year, cannot travel to the US to visit her at the moment, because they’ve shelled out all their finances to ensure her defense, her sister Marina told TASS on Thursday.
"At the moment we cannot travel to the US, although we want to do that very much. The top priority for us now is ensuring her proper defense, so for now we are spending all our money on that," she explained.
Marina Butina noted that professional legal defense in America is very costly since "the case is politically motivated." TASS earlier reported that The Maria Butina Legal Expense Fund to support the US-jailed Russian citizen had been established, and is currently operating.
According to Butina’s sister, Maria tries to keep in touch with her relatives over the phone, informing them about her prison conditions in Virginia, where she was transferred in August. "It is hard to call her present prison conditions normal, unless we compare them with what she had to go through over the past two months when she was in solitary confinement. However, our family, Maria’s relatives and friends continue to hope that they will be able to achieve the respect for and protection of human rights during the investigation and the trial," she stressed.
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.