Russia demands release of woman in U.S. charged as unregistered agent

Russia issued a statement Thursday criticizing U.S. officials for their treatment of Maria Butina, a Russian woman living in the U.S. who has been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

A statement from the Russian Embassy accused U.S. authorities of arresting Butina on "trumped-up charges" and claimed that prosecutors were trying to "intimidate" her ahead of her trial by placing her in solitary confinement.

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"We will continue demanding the release of Maria, victim of the blatant outrage," the embassy said before slamming the Trump administration for its criticism of Russia's involvement in a recent border dispute with Ukrainian forces that resulted in the capture of several Ukrainian sailors and two vessels.

"If our American partners think they can comment on the detention of people who violated Russia's state border, they should start by commenting [on] the situation around the political prisoner held in their country," the embassy said.

Butina was arrested earlier this year and is accused of attempting to set up backchannel communications between Russian officials and members of right-leaning U.S. political organizations. She is reportedly close to making a deal with U.S. prosecutors after pleading not guilty to the charges against her.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan granted a joint request from prosecutors and Butina's attorneys last month to delay a planned status conference in the case until Dec. 19, citing progress made in working out a potential agreement.

Prosecutors argued upon her arrest that Butina was a flight risk, claiming that she would likely flee to Russia if allowed to leave U.S. custody.

“All of Butina’s known personal ties, save for those U.S. persons she attempted to exploit and influence, reside in the Russian Federation,” prosecutors wrote in July. “Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States.”