Russian operative Maria Butina released, expected to be deported after serving prison sentence

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What You Need to Know: Maria Butina

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Russian woman who admitted last year to conspiring to act as an illegal agent of the Russian Federation in the United States was freed Friday from a federal prison, according to multiple reports.

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Maria Butina, 31, was scheduled to be released early next month from a low-security prison in Tallahassee, Florida, but Reuters reported a change in federal law allowed for her release to be moved up based on credit for good behavior. She had been imprisoned since her July 2018 arrest.

The Associated Press reported she was allowed to leave prison Friday morning and transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities. She was expected to be immediately deported to Moscow.

Butina's attorney, Robert Driscoll, told the Washington Examiner that he had few details from the government about his client's release. He said he expects to hear from Butina between flights Saturday.

"My thought would be that she'll fly to Atlanta (from Tallahassee), bounce to Europe somewhere and then fly to Moscow, and get there midday Saturday," Driscoll told the Examiner.

Butina was living in Washington, D.C., when she was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, as required by law. She initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, but later changed her plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Butina schmoozed with influential people and organizations in the U.S. in an effort to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and endear herself to conservative activists, according to the Justice Department. She worked with the Russian government starting in 2015 until July 2018, when she was arrested, authorities said.

In the plea deal reached last year, Butina admitted to working under the direction of Alexander Torshin, a former deputy governor for the Russian Central Bank and member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, The Washington Post reported. Her attorneys said she had good intentions and that she worked to open unofficial lines of communication between American political influencers and Russian officials to improve the relationship between the two countries, according to the Post.

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