A United States federal court has on Friday sentenced Russian agent Maria Butina to serve 18 months in prison, shortly after she pleaded guilty for allegedly infiltrating US conservative political activists and promoting Moscow’s interests before and after the US 2016 presidential election.
Butina, the leader of a small Russian gun rights group, is the only Russian citizens who have been detained and convicted in a three-year probe of Russia meddling the 2016 US presidential election, according to ANI news reports.
She has been incarcerated since her first arrest last year in July and will also receive credit for serving nine months in prison previously. After the completion of her sentence, she will be moved to Russia.
A judge from Colombia district, Tanya Chutkan was quoted by CNN as saying, “This was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student.”
Chutkan also noted Butin, who studied in Washington at American University, was engaged in “dangerous” and “sophisticated” work.
She stated, “The conduct was sophisticated and penetrated deep into political organizations,” further noting Butina’s action took place at the time when Moscow was attempting to interfere into US election process.
Meanwhile, the convicted Russian agent expressed deep regret over her crime and pleaded for forgiveness in the US court.
Butina said, “I deeply regret this crime. Ironically it has harmed my attempts to improve relationships between the two countries.” She added, “I came to the US, not under orders but with hope. I sought to build bridges between my motherland and the country that I grew to love,” adding, “Never did I wish to hurt anyone.”
While prosecutors agreed Butina was not an agent from Russia in a traditional sense, though they argued her actions could have jeopardized the national security of America.