Putin: Convicted Russian spy Marina Butina pleaded guilty to a lieDecember 21, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied Thursday that gun rights enthusiast Maria Butina — who pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the Kremlin by trying to infiltrate US political groups — worked on behalf of his government.
In his end-of-year press conference, the Russian strongman claimed that Butina made the plea because of the threat of a lengthy prison sentence in what he declared was a fabricated case.
Butina, 30, pleaded guilty last week to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with the feds for trying to infiltrate conservative political groups in the United States. She faces up to six months in prison followed by likely deportation.
“I don’t understand what she could confess to since she was not carrying out any government assignments … whatever she said was under threat of 10 to 15 years in jail,” Putin said. “I don’t understand what they jailed her for. There are no grounds.”
Butina admitted working with a US political operative — Paul Erickson — under direction of a former Russian senator to forge ties with officials at the National Rifle Association, conservative leaders and candidates in the 2016 presidential race, including Donald Trump.
Her case is a vivid “part of a larger mosaic of Russian influence operations” laid out in part by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference, former Justice Department official David Laufman told the Washington Post last week.
Putin also said the West was trying to hold back an increasingly powerful Russia as he took aim at sanctions and “made-up” spy scandals, including the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.
Britain has blamed Moscow for the attack, naming two suspects as military intelligence agents.
“If there hadn’t been the Skripals, they would have made up something else. There is only one aim: to hold back Russia’s development,” he said, later lamenting that ties with Britain were at a “dead end.”
Putin also said sanctions imposed by Western countries on Russia were the result of the country’s increasing international influence.
“This is connected with the growth of Russia’s power,” he said. “A powerful player appears who needs to be reckoned with. Until recently it was thought there was no longer such a country.”
He said Russia’s economy had “adapted” and that in some respects sanctions had been positive, pointing as an example to the expansion of the country’s agriculture.
With Post wires
Source: Read Full Article