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Foreign Ministry issues strong protest over Butina's arrest to US Department of State

Russian national Maria Butina was arrested in Washington on July 15

MOSCOW, July 26./TASS/. Russian diplomats keep monitoring the situation around Russian national Maria Butina arrested in the US, strong protest was issued to the US Department of State in connection with the way she is treated, Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Spokesperson Artyom Kozhin said on Thursday.

"We continue to monitor most closely the situation with Russian national Maria Butina arrested in Washington on July 15," he said. "Strong protest was issued to the US Department of State in connection with action taken against her, including harsh psychological pressure," the diplomat said.

He also cited "an eight-hour-long search during the arrest, when FSB agents armed with automatic rifles burst into the rented apartment, breaking furniture, ransacking and even tearing up her belongings, ripping up the floor and the walls".

The diplomat said they had found nothing suspicious, but "despite the absence of proof of any guilt, Butina was denied the release". "The trumped up by the FBI accusations are based on extracts from Butina’s private correspondence in the social media, divorced from its context," he stressed.

"They are trying to charge her with violation of the US law on foreign agents, though she has not worked for any foreign state, and studied at a Washington university," the diplomat added.

Russia demands the release

The diplomat said the Russian national had not concealed her nationality, her acquaintances and contacts. "Certain political forces in the US invented a story about Russia’s meddling in the American elections out of their vested interests, and in the wake of their campaign to demonize our country Butina was imprisoned under a totally forged pretext," Kozhin said.

He said Moscow demands from Washington "to immediately stop its arbitrary action and release Maria Butina". "The arrest of a Russian national was conditioned entirely by reasons of domestic and foreign policy, which means she is a political inmate," Kozhin said.

Butina’s case

The 29-year-old Maria Butina 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.

The FBI said 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, according to her lawyer.

Butina is a member of the board of the Russian public associations ‘The Right to Guns’. In this capacity, she attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February 2017 where President Donald Trump took part.

On July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscored in his telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that US actions against Russian citizen Maria Butina were inadmissible.