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Russian billionaire supported alleged foreign agent: report

Russian billionaire supported alleged foreign agent: report
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The Russian woman charged with acting as an unregistered agent of Moscow reportedly received funding from a Russian billionaire with investments in American energy and technology companies. 

The Washington Post reported that Maria Butina told Senate investigators in April that the billionaire, Konstantin Nikolaev, provided financial support for a gun rights group that she had launched years ago. 

Nikolaev has not been identified by name in court records. But prosecutors made reference to a Russian billionaire listed by Forbes as having a net worth of $1.2 billion who travels frequently to the U.S.

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A spokesman for Nikolaev told the Post that the billionaire had been in contact with Butina as she was launching her gun rights group between 2012 and 2014, but did not say whether he helped fund it.

Butina was arrested last week and charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia. She was ordered held without bond. 

Prosecutors allege that Butina's work was directed by a high-ranking government official in Russia, widely believed to be Alexander Torshin. 

According to court documents, Butina came to the U.S. in 2016 on a student visa to study at American University in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors allege that that visa was a ruse intended to hide her true motives.

In Washington, she became a fixture in some conservative political circles.

The Russian government has maintained Butina's innocence, saying that she was merely a student who was interested in studying in the U.S.