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Prosecutors want accused Russian spy to serve 18 months

Washington, April 20 (IANS) American prosecutors want Russian citizen Maria Butina, who pleaded has guilty to an espionage charge, to serve 18 months in prison, while accusing her of seeking to hurt the US in her work as a foreign agent.

“Activities at issue in this case are part of Russia’s broader scheme to acquire information and establish relationships and communication channels that can be exploited to the Russian Federation’s benefit,” prosecutors wrote in their pre-sentencing memo on Friday.

Prosecutors wrote that Butina was not a traditional spy or “trained intelligence officer”, but sought to help Russia at the expense of US national security, CNN reported.

They called her an “access agent” — a person used by her foreign government to attempt to set up a back-channel through Republican organisations for communication and diplomacy.

“Had she successfully done so, the risks to the US would have included harm to this country’s political processes, internal government dealings, and US foreign policy interests,” the prosecutors wrote.

In her sentencing memo also out on Friday night, Butina asked a federal judge to release her from prison and send her home to Russia after she spent nine months in jail since her arrest for acting as a foreign agent of the Russian government.

She has also spoken to the Senate Intelligence Committee for a voluntary interview that lasted eight hours, her lawyers wrote on Friday, and gave them “thousands of pages of documents”, including many related to a former Russian politician Alexander Torshin.

Butina is set to be sentenced on April 26. The prosecutors have not yet made a recommendation to the judge for her sentencing, CNN reported.

Her attorneys have explicitly asked that she be sentenced to time served in jail, following her plea in December.

Butina, a 30-year-old longtime gun rights activist, admitted to attempting to curry favour with conservative political groups on behalf of Russia, particularly with the support of Torshin, a former Russian parliament member and former Russian Central Bank leader.

Paul Erickson, a political operative who has been indicted for money laundering in South Dakota, is mentioned in her report as her boyfriend and someone who helped her draft a plan for Russian-American diplomacy in the US.

She has been cooperating with investigators in the investigation against Erickson.




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