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Family of jailed Russian says they face obstacles in contacting her

On April 26, the Russian was sentenced to 18 months in jail

BARNAUL, May 28. /TASS/. The family of Russian national Maria Butina jailed in the US is unable to transfer money to a special account she can use to pay for telephone calls home, so they have no chance to make video calls with her, Maria’s father Valery Butin told TASS on Tuesday.

He explained that only US nationals had the right to top up such accounts and the Butina family had earlier used the assistance of their acquaintances in the country. This is how Maria managed to film a video address from prison in mid-May.

"There are some financial issues, not technical ones. From Russia, we can’t transfer money for video calls. The only thing we could do was to create an account to exchange messages. As for telephone and video calls, all our efforts failed," Butin said.

International Human Rights Committee Vice President Alexander Ionov earlier voiced concern that Butina could be sent to a private prison in the south of the US, where conditions would be poor. Butina’s father pointed out he didn’t know where his daughter would serve her sentence but the family would like her to be transferred to a prison for women convicted of non-violent crimes.

Butina case

Maria Butina, 30, went to the United States for a college course. In the spring of 2018, she obtained a master’s degree in international relations from American University. She was arrested in Washington DC on July 15, 2018, 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 conspiracy to violate the US law governing foreign agents operating in the country and signed a plea bargain.

On April 26, the Russian was sentenced to 18 months in prison.