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Russia urges release of accused agent Butina in Twitter campaign

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has launched a Twitter campaign calling for the release of Maria Butina, a woman with ties to U.S. conservative politicians and groups who U.S. authorities have accused of being a Russian agent.

Butina, 29, was arrested by the FBI and indicted this week on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. She has been accused of attempting to infiltrate political groups, including the powerful National Rifle Association, to advance Russian interests. She is being held in Washington without bail.

Late on July 19, the Russian ministry touted the hashtag #FreeMariaButina, changed the profile picture on its Twitter account to a picture of Butina, and asked Butina supporters to do the same on their social-media accounts.

Also on July 19, Russian news agencies reported that Russian consular officials in Washington visited Butina in the Washington jail where she is in custody and said she was in good health.

“Despite the stress and the psychological pressure that the Russian citizen had to experience during her arrest, she feels well and has no complaints about her health,” the Russian Embassy in Washington reportedly said in a statement.

“Just like any normal person, Maria has difficulties in adapting to prison conditions,” the embassy reportedly said. “However, she is holding her head up high, is sure of her innocence, and is determined to prove it in the court.”

Based on reporting by dpa, Vox, AP, Interfax, and TASS