MOSCOW, December 11. /TASS/. The Kremlin is abstaining from commenting on media reports about the intention of Russian citizen Maria Butina, arrested in the US, to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"I cannot comment on that," Peskov said, adding that the Kremlin only saw information on Butina’s plea deal in media reports. "For the time being, we have no official data or information from Butina herself on that score."
On Monday, Butina’s defense team and US federal prosecutors filed a joint motion, requesting a change-of-plea hearing, which means that she can plead guilty to one or several charges. The parties requested a hearing "at the Court’s earliest convenience," preferably as early as this week, namely on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
According to ABC News, the Russian citizen admitted as part of the deal that that she and an unnamed "US Person 1," "agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official ("Russian Official") and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General." The TV network reported that the agreement, which Butina allegedly signed on Saturday, December 8, also noted "the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison." However, the deal could see Butina "receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia," the report said.
Maria Butina, a graduate student at American University in Washington, was arrested on July 15 ahead of the Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The Russian gun rights activist is facing charges of conspiracy for conducting activities in the interests of a foreign state. Investigators claim that she was engaged in these endeavors without registering as a foreign agent at the US Department of Justice.