United States prosecutors have accused a Russian woman of being a Russian agent.
The officials say she used sex and deception to make connections with influential Americans.
The woman, Maria Butina, was observed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in a private meeting with a Russian diplomat. The diplomat is suspected of being a spy in the U.S.
Prosecutors also said she had contact information for people believed to be employees of Russia’s Federal Security Services, or FSB. It is the successor to the KGB, the spy agency of the former Soviet Union.
The Justice Department prosecutors made the charges in court documents asking a judge to keep Butina in custody.
She is living in the U.S. under a student visa.
Over the weekend, she was arrested and accused of infiltrating American organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA). She is also accused of gathering intelligence for a top Russian official.
Butina also helped establish a gun rights organization modeled on the NRA in 2012.
The NRA has not commented on the charges.
The government argues that Butina is likely to flee the U.S. Prosecutors said that her lease on an apartment ends later this month. Her belongings were packed at the time of her arrest.
They added that her personal ties are to Russia and Americans she wanted “to exploit and influence.”
Prosecutors said Butina and the official sent messages to each other directly on the social media service Twitter.
One such exchange came a month before the U.S. presidential election. In it, Butina said she understood that “everything has to be quiet and careful.”
They also spoke on January 20, 2017 when Butina sent the official a photograph of her near the U.S. Capitol on the day Donald Trump took office as president.
Russian official tied to Butina
Prosecutors have not named the Russian official. But reports say details in the court papers match the description of Alexander Torshin. He is a senior official in the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.
Torshin became a lifetime NRA member in 2012. He was among a group of wealthy Russians and officials under U.S. sanctions for their associations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prosecutors say the official directed Butina to gather intelligence on American officials and political organizations. She is also accused of trying to establish communication links for Russia.
Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, has called the charges “overblown.” He denied Butina was a Russian agent.
Driscoll said she was just a student, attending American University in the nation’s capital. He added she was seeking to support a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia.
Prosecutors also charge that she lived with an unnamed American political operative they call U.S. Person 1. Officials say Butina used the relationship to work for Russia.
The court document also charges that she “offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”
Court papers do not name the individuals or the group.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on AP news reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
prosecutor - n. a government lawyer who accuses a person of a crime and who tries to prove that the person is guilty
deception - n. the act of making someone believe something that is not true
custody - n. the state of being kept in a prison or jail
infiltrate - v. to secretly join a group to get information or to do harm
lease - n. a legal agreement to use a car, house, apartment ...
exploit - v. to use someone in a way that helps you unfairly
sanction - n. an order that is given to limit or stop trade under international law