This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Maria Butina, the Russian national who served 9 months in a U.S. prison after admitting to being a foreign agent, said she blamed racism against Russians for the prosecution against her.
Butina made the assertion in an interview with the CBS TV news program 60 Minutes airing November 3.
“Let me take you back to 2016…around the election time,” Butina said. “Do you remember at that time how American media treated Russia? Everything was toxic. Tell me that there is no racism here against the Russians.”
Butina, who returned to Russia on October 26, was a gun rights activist who sought to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups and promote Russia’s agenda around the time that Donald Trump rose to the presidency.
She had been in custody since her arrest in July 2018.
Butina was not charged with espionage but rather failing to report her efforts to the Justice Department, which requires the registration of lobbyists and others in the United States who do the bidding of foreign governments.
Her main political patron was Aleksandr Torshin, a former Russian lawmaker and central bank official who has been alleged by Spanish prosecutors of having ties to organized crime groups.
Butina’s association with powerful conservative political groups like the National Rifle Association continues to draw scrutiny.
In court filings, U.S. prosecutors alleged that Butina was “not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. She was not a trained intelligence officer.”
“But the actions she took were nonetheless taken on behalf of the Russian Official for the benefit of the Russian Federation, and those actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States,” they said.
The Russian official is not identified in the memo but it is thought to be Torshin.