MOSCOW, December 20. /TASS/. Russian national Maria Butina, arrested in the United States, did not follow any orders given by Russian state agencies, President Vladimir Putin said at his annual news conference on Thursday.
"As for the future of our citizens, we definitely care. I don’t know to what charges she may plead guilty because she did not follow any orders given by Russian state agencies. I say this with all responsibility, no matter what she says, as she says, facing 12 to 15 years in prison," Putin said.
"Clearly, she and her defense attorney are trying to make sure that she is released from prison," the Russian leader went on to say. "I just don’t get why she was sent to prison in the first place, there just were no reasons for that. But they need to save their face and find a way out of the situation - I mean, the US justice system. We’ll see where it goes," he added.
"We do care, we will continue to keep an eye on the situation and provide appropriate support to her," Putin stressed.
Butina, 30, was arrested in Washington DC on July 15, right before the Helsinki meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The US Department of Justice said that she was 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."
On July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo that Butina be released as soon as possible. He also slammed all charges brought against her as fabricated.
On December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the US law governing foreign agents operating in the country. The next court hearing has been scheduled for February 12.