Russian ex-spy Maria Butina has been hit by US sanctions over the Ukraine war

Ex-spy Maria Butina was one of hundreds of Russian individuals and entities targeted this week in the Biden administration’s latest round of sanctions in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Butina is best known in the US as a gun rights activist who pleaded guilty to conspiring to pose as an unregistered Russian agent.

Butina, 33, was one of 328 members of Russia’s State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, set to be sanctioned on Wednesday as Western officials ramped up economic pressures in response to the war.

“The Russian State Duma continues to support Putin’s invasion, stifling the free flow of information and violating the fundamental rights of the citizens of Russia. We call on those closest to Putin to end and condemn this cold-blooded war,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement on the new sanctions.

Butina, a former student at American University, was accused of trying to infiltrate prominent conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association, as part of a Kremlin-backed influence campaign ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Maria Butina
Maria Butina was arrested after trying to infiltrate conservative groups as part of a Kremlin-backed influence campaign.
Getty Images

Butina served a 15-month stint in US prison and was released in 2019. She returned to Russia, got involved in politics and joined the State Duma in 2021.

Butina has been an outspoken figure in Russia since the invasion began. Earlier this month, she gave the BBC a bizarre interview in which she denied that Russia was targeting civilians during its military campaign and claimed Ukraine was bombing its own people.

“Russia does not bomb civilians, Russian military troops actually have humanitarian corridors,” Butina said.

Maria Butina
Maria Butina had previously defended Russia’s actions since the start of the Ukraine war.
AFP via Getty Images

Butina also helped draft the so-called “fake news law” in Russia, under which journalists can face up to 15 years in prison if they report anything contrary to the Kremlin’s official stance. The law prompted several media outlets to leave Russia.

Aside from sanctions against members of the State Duma and the parliamentary body itself, US officials have targeted Herman Gref, head of Russian financial institution Sberbank, and Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko.

The penalties also hit 48 state-owned Russian defense companies and 17 board members of the Russian financial institution Sovcombank. The US is also coordinating with international allies to sanction gold reserves held by Russia’s central bank. Russian ex-spy Maria Butina has been hit by US sanctions over the Ukraine war


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