Russian national Maria Butina claims she was “building peace” in the U.S. after pleading guilty to conspiracy to act as a foreign agent in December.
Butina spoke by phone from a detention center outside Washington, D.C., in an exclusive interview with National Public Radio, saying she did not know she was required to register in the U.S. as a foreign agent.
The 30-year-old also pointed out that there is no mention of her name in the redacted version of the special counsel’s report, NPR reported Friday, and said that those who accused her do not know her.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate to say that this was all one grand giant plan and I’m a part of some grand giant plan,” she told NPR Thursday. “There is no proof of that. And I have no knowledge that there is a certain plan.”
Butina, convicted for conspiring with a Russian government official by attempting to infiltrate conservative political groups including the National Rifle Association, will soon move to a federal prison where she will serve about nine months before being deported to Russia. She plans to go to Siberia and become a professor, according to NPR.
“I never hide my love to my motherland neither to this country,” Butina said in the interview. “I love both countries, and I was building peace.”
The FBI arrested Butina in July 2018 after monitoring her meetings with Russian officials and her relationship with Russia’s domestic intelligence service, the FSB. Butina cultivated relationships with U.S. officials and NRA members in what intelligence officials call a “spotting and assessing” technique.
“Acquiring information valuable to a foreign power does not necessarily involve collecting classified documents or engaging in cloak-and-dagger activities,” Justice Department prosecutors wrote before a judge sentenced Butina in April.
“Something as basic as the identification of people who have the ability to influence policy in a foreign power’s favor is extremely attractive to those powers,” prosecutors said. “This identification could form the basis of other forms of intelligence operations, or targeting, in the future.”
Butina denied being part of spotting and assessing. “It feels for me that this is … possibly a speculation, which has no evidence,” she said.
Butina claims that shared interests between Russia and the U.S. could help build unity. “I believe that we should have peace between the two countries,” she said, adding:
It has been my goal all the way. … I believe that the relationships and their strength … depends on people, depends on what they call civil diplomacy. On people who have similar interests. Similar hobbies. Similar minds, like people who, let’s say … who are Christians who share the faith — or people who share love to guns. That’s exactly the point that I was addressing. I was building unofficial communication of civil diplomacy.
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