WASHINGTON, April 26. /TASS/. Russian national Maria Butina, sentenced by a US court to 18 months behind bars for espionage, stated that she came to the USA in order to "build bridges" between Moscow and Washington during Friday’s hearing.
Butina said that she wanted to build a career in the sphere of international politics. "I sought to build bridges between my motherland and the country that I grew to love," she stressed, adding that she came to the US "not under orders but with hope".
The convict, clad in a dark green prison robe, spoke in court for several minutes, her voice breaking at times.
The Russian national stressed that she was not aware she had to register as a foreign agent and apologized for her actions seen as a violation of the US law. "The United States has always been kind to me, and though it was not my intention to harm the American people, I did that by not notifying the Attorney General of my actions. I deeply regret this crime," Butina said. "Please accept my apology and allow me to begin again."
"Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, in the United States or in Russia, and so I humbly request forgiveness," she added.
"I have three degrees, but now I'm a convicted felon with no job, no money and no freedom," the Russian national lamented.
Earlier on Friday, a court in Washington sustained the prosecution’s request for sentencing Butina to 18 months behind bars. Judge Tanya Chutkan ignored the defense lawyers’ request that Butina should be sentenced to a term equal to the period she had already spent in custody.
Maria 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 December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the US law governing foreign agents operating in the country and signed a plea agreement. The prosecution said at the time that the process of Butina’s cooperation with the investigation might take some time.
Butina had arrived in the United States for a course of studies. Last spring she obtained a master’s degree at American University, where she studied international relations.