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Woman Accused By U.S. Of Working As Russian Agent May Plead Guilty

December 11, 2018

A Russian woman accused of working as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States has reached a deal with prosecutors, a possible indication she may change her plea to guilty.

Maria Butina, 30, was arrested in July, accused of working for years to cultivate relationships with U.S. political organizations and conservative activists.

Butina, who is being held without bail, initially pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as an unregistered agent for the Russian government.

However, court document released on December 10 indicated that prosecutors and her defense lawyers have reached an unspecified deal, asking a U.S. court to set a date for a change-of-plea hearing this week. That's an indication she may change her plea to guilty.

The lawyers said that "the parties have resolved this matter, and the defendant Maria Butina remains in custody." They did not say what the final charge would be.

The Justice Department alleged that her efforts were part of the Russian government's secret campaign to try to influence high-level Republican politicians, including Donald Trump, both as a candidate and after his election as U.S. president.

Butina ran a small Russian group called the Right to Bear Arms that appears to have been funded in part by Russian politician Aleksandr Torshin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Before her arrest, Butina had built up a network of prominent Republican contacts in Washington, including at the influential National Rifle Association, while working toward a master's degree in political science at a Washington, D.C. university.

Since her arrest, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly complained about her detention to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. prosecutors noted.

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