AP NEWS

Maria Butina prison sentence protested as ‘unlawful’ by Russian embassy in appeal to State Dept.

May 3, 2019

Russia has lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. State Department over the 18-month prison sentence recently imposed on Maria Butina, the Russian Embassy in D.C. said Friday.

“A diplomatic note was sent to the State Department protesting the unlawful court decision,” the Russian Embassy said on Facebook. “We demand from the U.S. authorities to ensure the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of our compatriot in accordance with international human rights standards.”

“We don’t comment on private diplomatic correspondence,” a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Times in response to the Facebook post.

Butina, a 31-year-old Russian activist, was arrested and charged last July with acting as an unregistered foreign agent and has been jailed ever since.

She pleaded guilty in December to a single related count of conspiracy and was sentenced by a D.C. federal court judge on April 26 to 18 months imprisonment double the nine months of time served sought by her attorneys.

Addressing reporters this week in her first post-sentencing interview, Butina said her punishment was “absolutely absurd” and a “huge disgrace for the U.S. justice system,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted similarly days earlier when he described Butina’s punishment during a press conference as “a travesty of justice.”

Regional media has since reported about efforts within the Russian legislature to create a so-called “Butina List” containing the names of U.S. officials accused of “violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of Russian citizens.”

“The threat of being included in the ‘Butina List’ in the future should start sobering up foreign officials, who have gotten used to clamping down on Russians with impunity and prevent violations of our fellow countrymen’s rights abroad,” Russian lawmakers wrote to Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov, the Izvestia newspaper reported Tuesday.

A former student of American University in D.C., Butina was accused by prosecutors of illegally attempting to influence U.S. policy toward Russia through forging ties with Republicans and groups including the National Rifle Association. Both the Kremlin and Butina have denied she spied for Moscow.