'Outrage': Putin slams US sentence for Russian agent Maria Butina

Vladimir Putin calls US treatment of Russian gun lobbyist Maria Butina 'arbitrary' and an 'outrage'.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China [Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via Reuters]
    Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China [Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via Reuters]

    President Vladimir Putin has slammed a prison sentence handed down by a US court to admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, calling her treatment a travesty of justice.

    The Russian leader's comments on Saturday came a day after a Washington court sentenced Butina to 18 months in prison followed by deportation. The Siberia native had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without registering.

    Speaking in Beijing, Putin said the sentence looked like an attempt by US law enforcement and judicial officials to save face.

    "It's an outrage," Putin told reporters. "It is, in fact, arbitrary. It's not clear what she was convicted of or what crime she committed.

    "They arrested her and put the girl in jail. But there was nothing on her, so, in order not to look totally stupid, they gave her, fixed her up, with an 18-month sentence to show that she was guilty of something."

    On Friday, Butina begged a US judge for mercy and expressed remorse for conspiring with a Russian official to infiltrate a gun rights group and influence US conservative activists and Republicans.

    It made her the only Russian arrested and convicted in three years of investigations of Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election. 

    The leader of a small Russian gun rights group, the 30-year-old used her ties to the National Rifle Association to build a network of powerful Republican contacts.

    Prosecutors said while Butina did not engage in "traditional" spycraft, she worked behind the scenes to make inroads in conservative political circles and promote warmer US-Russian relations. She arranged dinners in Washington, DC, and New York City and attended events to meet prominent politicians.

    Butina's case was separate from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Moscow's alleged interference in the US election. 

    SOURCE: News agencies