The Russian Foreign Ministry has strongly dismissed a recent Daily Beast article claiming that detained Russian activist Maria Butina was attempting to influence US policies with the approval of Russian officials, TASS reported.
"Regretfully, we have to state that a US media outlet, Daily Beast, has once again deceived its readers, claiming that Maria Butina, detained in Washington last summer, tried to influence the decision-making process in US politics with the knowledge of Russian official agencies," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. "After the FBI resorted to harsh prison conditions and threats of a serious punishment to force our citizen to incriminate herself, ‘fake news’ masters have again made use of the ‘Russian interference’ scam," the ministry said.
The news portal’s claims are based on the fact that Butina, being a senior member of the Russian-based ‘Right to Guns’ public organization, helped to organize a visit to Russia by a delegation of the National Rifle Association. The visit took place about one year before the latest presidential elections in the United States, which brought President Donald Trump to power. During the visit, the delegation met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 9, 2015.
"This is indeed so," the Russian ministry said. "Such conversations, requested by foreign public figures, scientists and entrepreneurs are a part of the foreign ministry’s routine work, and the Russian Foreign Ministry makes reports about them on a regular basis," the ministry said, adding that the discussion focused on "the general global situation and bilateral relations."
Commenting on the report that the delegation also met with Russian officials, who were blacklisted by the United States, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: "Let us reveal another secret. From the very outset of Washington’s obsession with blacklists under the Barack Obama administration, US ambassadors in Russia keep requesting meetings with individuals mentioned in them."
"The not-quite-scrupulous US journalists should stop deceiving their readers," the ministry added. "However, we are perfectly aware that they are simply acting on an order from certain US political groups."
Maria Butina, 30, was arrested in Washington DC on July 15, right before the Helsinki meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The US Department of Justice said that she was suspected of acting "as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation."
On December 13, a court in District Columbia heard Butina plead guilty to one of the charges brought against her - violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Earlier she signed a plea bargain with the attorney’s office.