During Wednesday’s federal court hearing, it was revealed that Russian agent Mariia Butina had both figuratively and literally cozied up to U.S political operatives in an attempt to influence U.S political activity.

Butina is currently charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of the Russian government without registering. Posing as a graduate student at American University, Butina had been operating in the U.S for the past four years. According to prosecutors, she attempted to infiltrate the National Rifle Association as well as religious groups and the National Prayer Breakfast as part of “a covert Russian influence operation.” The goal of which was to establish “back channel” lines of communication with American politicians “to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus [and] advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” wrote the affidavit.


Butina allegedly received assistance from a U.S operative, speculated to be Republican consultant Paul Erickson, who she referred to as her boyfriend despite the 27-year age gap. The pair soon moved in together, but prosecutors noted that Butina privately expressed “disdain” for Erickson and claimed she only used him to further her political agenda — “she appears to treat that relationship as simply a necessary aspect of her activities,” read court documents.


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Emails revealed that the U.S operative knowingly helped Butina by identifying certain political, news and business officials to target in her efforts.


Later on, to avoid scrutiny over her frequent trips to and from Russia, Butina supposedly obtained her work visa by offering “an individual other than [Erickson] sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”   

“The defendant’s covert influence campaign involved substantial planning, international coordination and preparation,” said prosecutors.

Butina is alleged to have been working under the guidance of her “funder,” Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank with ties to Russian state security. FBI agents also uncovered a handwritten note in her apartment that read, “How to respond to F.S.B. offer of employment?” The FSB is the Federal Security Service, a Russian intelligence agency and  successor to the Soviet K.G.B.

Butina has pled “not guilty” to the charges.

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