Maria Butina says contacts with NRA and GOP was ‘social networking’

Maria Butina, the Russian woman who spent 18 months in a federal prison for acting as an unregistered agent of Russia, says her contacts with Republicans and members of the National Rifle Association were normal, and not espionage ‘If I were not Russian, that would be called social networking,’ Butina told 60 Minutes The full interview with Butina aired on the CBS News show on Sunday.Butina broke her silence after finishing her prison term on a charge of conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia Maria Butina broke her silence in an interview with 60 Minutes set to air on Sunday night, blaming ‘racism against Russians’ for her prosecution as a foreign agent Maria Butina speaks with journalists after her arrival at Sheremetievo Airport in Moscow last weekend She served 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to a federal charge The 30-year-old Siberia native said her actions have been unfairly characterized by the U S. government. ‘I think it’s an American, very old saying that suggests that wolves have teeth, but not all animals with teeth are wolves,’ she said ‘You cannot judge a person based on appearance.’ It marked Butina’s first interview with U S. television since she was freed last week from a low-security federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida and deported back to Russia RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 Next Russian agent Maria Butina sheds tears and hugs family as Russian spy Maria Butina, 30, will be released from jail on. Share this article Share Butina began attending NRA meetings and other conservative events in the U S. in 2014, often posting Facebook pictures of herself with prominent Republicans like Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum All the while, she remained in contact with a Russian official, Aleksandr Torshin, and prosecutors say that she was acting on Kremlin orders to insert herself into U S. politics. But Butina denied the government’s claim that Torshin was close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president The U.S. government alleges that Butina was acting on the orders of the Kremlin, who were directing her through a high-level official, Aleksandr Torshin (seen right with Butina) Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, is seen left with President Vladimir Putin in this 2011 file photo Butina said she does not believe Torshin is ‘close to Putin in any way’She was then asked by 60 Minutes why she texted Torshin: ‘You are an influential member of [Putin’s] team ”It doesn’t suggest he’s close to Putin in any way.’In one of thousands of Twitter direct messages 60 Minutes obtained, she wrote to Torshin: ‘We made our bet I am following our game.’ Torshin replied: ‘…This is the battle for the future. It cannot be lost… patience and cold blood…’ A week later, Butina writes to Torshin: ‘…Only incognito! Right now everything has to be quiet and careful ‘ When 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl asked Butina about that exchange, she said, ‘Let me take you back to 2016…around the election time Do you remember at that time how American media treated Russia? Everything was toxic Tell me that there is no racism here against the Russians. Oh, please. It is.’  Butina was a regular at NRA events for years, where prosecutors say she was acting at the direction of the Russian government to infiltrate US conservative circlesPressed by Stahl that prosecutors insist she was trying to influence U S. policy, she said: ‘I never sought to influence your policies… I wanted to learn from the United States and make Russia better ‘ She said her involvement with the NRA was a natural extension of a gun rights movement she started in Russia  Butina arrived in Moscow on last weekend, greeted by her father and Russian journalists who handed her flowers ‘Russians never surrender,’ an emotional Butina told reporters at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, flanked by her father and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Clutching a bouquet of white roses, the 30-year-old graduate student thanked her supporters and added she was happy to be back Butina is welcomed by relatives after her arrival at Sheremetievo Airport in MoscowHer case further strained U S.-Russian relations, prompting Moscow to accuse Washington of forcing Butina to confess to what it described as ridiculous charges Earlier this year Putin called the United States’ treatment of Butina a travesty of justice and said her sentence looked like an attempt by U S. law enforcement and judicial officials to save face.Despite his criticism of the way Butina was treated, Putin has no plans to meet with her, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week In the past Putin has warmly welcomed home Russian agents arrested abroad.The Russian leader said in 2010 that he had sung patriotic songs with Anna Chapman, one of 10 Russian agents deported from the United States as part of the countries’ biggest spy swap since the Cold War   

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