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Convicted Russian agent Butina set to be released from US prison, deported

Maria Butina's mugshot after being booked into the Alexandria detention center (Alexandria, Virginia Detention Center/Released)

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

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it expects Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist convicted in the United States of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, will be released from a Florida prison and be deported.

The ministry said on its official Telegram messenger channel on October 25 that it expected Butina to arrive in Russia “during the morning of October 26.”

The ministry quoted Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, as saying he had been told by the U.S. State Department that Butina will be transferred from a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida, to a migration center in Miami. From there she will fly immediately to Moscow the same day.

Her attorney, Bob Driscoll, said in an e-mail to the dpa news agency that U.S. immigration agents will accompany Butina back to Russia.

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Details about her departure were “unavailable at this point,” Driscoll added.

Butina was arrested in July 2018 and sentenced to 18 months in prison in April this year after admitting to gathering intelligence on the National Rifle Association and other U.S. groups under the direction of a former Russian lawmaker. She was credited with time already served while awaiting trial or sentencing.

The 30-year-old Butina admitted that she should have registered with the U.S. government but insisted she wasn’t a spy and that all her actions took place out in the open.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the sentence, calling it “arbitrary” and saying Moscow authorities “don’t understand why she was sentenced.”