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Prosecution seeking to restrict access to details of Butina’s case - Russian embassy in US

The embassy stressed that there is no actual evidence that Butina was engaged in any sort of illegal activities in the United States

WASHINGTON, July 26. /TASS/. Prosecutors in the case of Maria Butina, a Russian national who was arrested in the United States on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government, are seeking to limit public access to the details of the trial, the Russian embassy in the United States said on its Facebook account on Wednesday.

"We are perplexed at the position of prosecutors who are insistently requesting to classify the case, this way restricting public access to the details of the trial. The same tactic, as we see, is used by the British special services concerning the Skripal case," the embassy said.

The embassy stressed that there is no actual evidence that Butina was engaged in any sort of illegal activities in the United States. "On the backdrop of ungrounded accusations and the lack of any proof actually evidencing to her illegal activities, the mainstream media have already plunged into a slander campaign against our compatriot. So, manifestation of solidarity with Maria is ever more important," the embassy said.

According to the embassy, its employees attended a court session on Butina’s case on July 25. Butina looked calm and confident, the embassy noted.

The next court session will be held on September 10. Russian diplomats plan to visit Butina in prison on Thursday. "We will continue to offer consular assistance and moral support to her," the embassy added.

During Wednesday’s court session, prosecutors demanded court prohibit Butina’s lawyer Robert Neil Driscoll to speak with the media. The lawyer said he just wanted to resist misinterpretation of the case by the press. The judge however warned him that the court may ban him to speak with the press.

Maria Butina, 29, was arrested in Washington on July 15. The Russian gun rights activist faces the charges of conspiracy for conducting activities in the interests of a foreign state. The investigators claim she engaged in these activities without registering as a foreign agent at the US Department of Justice.

Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov slammed Butina’s arrest as a farce, promising Moscow would insist on her release. Foreign Minister Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow considers the charges against Butina as ungrounded and politically motivated. She pledged Russian will take all possible efforts to protect Butina’s rights and legal interests.

During a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded Butina’s soonest release.

Butina entered the US in August 2016 on a student visa and took up studies at the American University. She received the master’s degree in international relations in May 2018.