US accusations against Russian Butina 'absolutely unfounded': Kremlin

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Dec 14, 2018, 03:24 PM(IST)

File photo of Maria Butina. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Butina on Thursday pleaded guilty in a US court to a single conspiracy charge in a deal with prosecutors and admitted to working with a top Russian official to infiltrate a powerful gun-rights group.

Kremlin on Friday held the accusations made by Maria Butina, the first Russian to be convicted of working to influence US policy during the 2016 presidential race as "absolutely unfounded".

"We consider the accusations against her as absolutely unfounded," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had "reasons to believe" the Russian had been kept in conditions designed to break her will and lead her to enter a false guilty plea.

"As far as I understand, this plea bargain -- the likes of which are common in the US -- is part of a deal to get free and return home as soon as possible," Lavrov said in comments reported by agencies.

Butina on Thursday pleaded guilty in a US court to a single conspiracy charge in a deal with prosecutors and admitted to working with a top Russian official to infiltrate a powerful gun-rights group.

She also admitted to influencing US policy towards Moscow and making inroads with American conservative activists and the Republican Party as an agent for Moscow.

Butina, a Russian former graduate student at American University in Washington admitted to the accusations at a court hearing in Washington before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Thursday.

Prosecutors said she launched a plan in 2015 to develop ties with the Republican Party with the aim of influencing US foreign policy.

The plot was allegedly guided and financed in part by Alexander Torshin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin who was deputy governor of the Russian central bank until his retirement on November 30.

Butina was charged by prosecutors in July with acting as an agent of Russia's government and conspiracy to take actions on behalf of Moscow. She had earlier pleaded not guilty before changing her plea during Thursday's hearing.

Prosecutors accused Butina, who was jailed awaiting trial, of working with a Russian official and two US citizens to try to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, a group closely aligned with Republican politicians including Republican President Donald Trump, and sway Washington's policy toward Moscow.

(With inputs from agencies)

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