Russia has characterized the U.S. government’s treatment of a Russian citizen who has been detained by the FBI as bordering on torture. Twenty-nine-year-old Russian citizen Maria Butina was arrested in July, accused of being a Russian spy and of trying to influence U.S. politics.
“We grow more worried about the situation with Maria Butina, a student, who was arrested by U.S. authorities under clearly unfounded accusations. Her situation is getting worse. Attempts are obviously made to ‘break’ her under additional humiliations and psychological pressure,” the Russian government wrote in a Facebook post today.
The Russian government has objected to Butina’s being transferred from a Washington, D.C. prison to a prison in Virginia without notice, of her being strip searched and being subjected to solitary confinement, among other things.
“We have more and more questions to the U.S. justice system. Should allegations pressed against Maria before the actual trial condemn her to practices that are slightly below torture?” the statement continued.
The FBI contends Butina tried to curry favor with a U.S.-based gun rights organization in order to infiltrate and ultimately influence a major U.S. political party. Neither the gun rights organization nor the major U.S. political party are mentioned by name in the FBI’s charging documents but they are believed to be the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party respectively.
U.S. authorities also allege that Butina was helped and nurtured by a high-ranking Russian government official. “The Russian official was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank. The Russian official directed Butina’s activities in furtherance of the conspiracy,” the FBI’s charging documents read.
Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Also today, Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill requested White House Chief of Staff John Kelly turn over records relating to National Security Adviser John Bolton and his work with Butina.
In 2013, Bolton recorded a promotional video with Butina calling for the expansion of gun rights in Russia. Bolton was the head of the NRA’s Subcommittee on International Affairs at the time. The video was to be shown to the Russian legislature, a fact of which Bolton was aware at the time according to him.
“Given the alarming and unprecedented nature of these revelations – and the high-level position of trust Mr. Bolton now holds – we request that you produce documents relating to whether Mr. Bolton reported his previous work with this alleged Russian spy on his security clearance forms or other White House vetting materials prior to President Trump appointing him to his current position,” the Democrats’ letter states.
The letter was sent by Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts. Cummings is the ranking member of the House oversight committee, and Lynch is ranking member of the oversight committee’s subcommittee on national security.
Russia has called on human rights organizations to criticize Butina’s treatment. “We expect human rights organizations to strictly condemn the U.S. actions. This lawlessness must be stopped,” their statement read.
Requests for comment from the Justice Department were not immediately returned.
Photo by The Russian Embassy