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Kremlin doubles down on denials Butina spied for Russia

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Maria Butina attends a rally to demand expansion of gun rights in Russia. File Photo by EPA-EFE
Maria Butina attends a rally to demand expansion of gun rights in Russia. File Photo by EPA-EFE

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- One day after Russian Maria Butina pleaded to infiltrating conservative gun activist groups in the United States, the Kremlin denied the accusations that she's a spy.

Butina pleaded guilty in U.S. court Thursday to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with prosecutors. She admitted she infiltrated a powerful gun rights group to better understand conservative activists and politicians while working as an agent for Moscow.

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She met with a top official at the National Rifle Association, met with several Republican presidential candidates and supported President Donald Trump, prosecutors said. She also posed for photos with Donald Trump Jr., Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and others.

Moscow officials immediately denied accusations that she spied for Russia. Friday, the Kremlin reiterated that stance.

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"We repeat, all allegations against her we consider to be absolutely groundless," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-run media Butina was held in torturous prison conditions in the United States so she would confess to something she didn't do. He called for her to be placed in the general population.

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"She is still being held in very non-standard conditions, conditions which are usually used against extremely dangerous criminals," Lavrov said. "She is staying in the most difficult conditions and faced specific kind of tortures for months: they either forcibly wake her up and let her walk in the night or place her in a solitary confinement cell and so on."

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Butina arrived in the United States to study, receiving a master's degree in foreign affairs from American University in Washington D.C. Prosecutors said during that time, she sent notes to Russian officials about conservative political movements leading up to the 2016 election.

RELATED Russia demands U.S. release accused spy Maria Butina

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