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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow [October 17, 2018]

We continue to watch the situation with Russian citizen Maria Butina who was arrested in the US on fabricated charges of acting as "a foreign government agent." Russia qualifies her as a political prisoner.

On October 10, Russian Embassy diplomats in Washington made their regular visit to Butina in prison. After she was transferred to a general detention facility in late September, thanks to our efforts, the prison administration's attitude towards Butina improved, she is not being subjected to the humiliating procedures we spoke about and is well-treated. We note that. Maria is allowed to leave the cell more often, take walks outside, communicate with other inmates and read books in Russian. This has generally helped stabilise the moral condition of our compatriot.

At present, Butina's lawyers are preparing for the next court hearing, which is scheduled for November 13 of this year. We continue to insist on the absolute innocence of this Russian citizen.

Once again, we state our demand that Maria Butina be released and that she has become yet another victim of so-called "American justice" and is in fact a political prisoner due to the Russophobic hysteria reigning in Washington, D.C.

The next scheduled consular visit with Maria Butina in prison will take place today.

Maria Butina and the Criminalization of Citizen Diplomacy | The Nation - Dec. 26, 2018 |

30-year-old, flame-haired Maria "Red Sparrow" Butina plead guilty this month to one act count of conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent. The announcement came after the mainstream media's front-page stories announced her arrest in July as a suspected Russian spy. The details and political implications of these Russophobic headlines were well covered in Aaron Mate's recent article in The Nation. But further discussion is necessary to provide context and to clarify the significance of this latest precedent-setting, slippery slope where the unintended consequences may turn out to be far worse than whatever it is Russia may have been doing. In Butina's case, the potential consequences are even more mystifying since she was only doing what the US government and numerous western private foundations have spent millions of dollars promoting Russians to do: become active, create an NGO, and generate increased understanding between the two countries.

When Butina was born during the perestroika era there was no such thing as an independent, registered NGO in Russia. Small, informal groups were starting to appear, such as "Diplomacy Through Families" in Novosibirsk that organized citizen diplomacy exchanges, but NGOs as we now know them did not exist in the country. By the time she was a teenager, however, there was a whole infrastructure of legislation and funding in place to support NGOs, much of it established in partnership with western institutions and organizations. In Siberia this process began in 1995 when US AID gave almost $2 million to support the expansion of a small NGO resource center into the Siberian Center and create a network of NGO resource centers in 11 regions across Siberia, including Butina's home region of Altai.

Collusion Russia 'Spy' Butina with Top Israeli Banker
Another Huge Arrest in the Russia Investigation | Washington Monthly |
Inside the Decade-Long Russian Campaign to Infiltrate the NRA and Help Elect Trump | Rolling Stone |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Sun Dec 30th, 2018 at 08:22:52 PM EST

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