MOSCOW – Russian national Maria Butina, who has recently been released from a US prison, in an interview with CBS said that being in a US jail was “a torture”. According to the interviewer, Butina particularly wanted to talk about “the conditions in the Washington DC jail where she was first held”.
“Cockroaches were everywhere, she claimed. No mattresses or blankets,” the interviewed added.
The interview was recorded shortly before the Butina’s release.
“It is a torture. It is not normal for a human being to be locked for 23, 20, 22 hours in a cell on your own. Do you really think for not filing the paper you deserve 18 months of incarceration, four months in solitary confinement, and all this experience in jail? Is that the way?” Butina stated.
“God found me. He was always there. And helped me to go through all these tough days,” the Russian noted.
Russian Orthodox priest Viktor Potapov visited Maria in prison and provided her with religious literature. Butina also made it clear that she had been convicted only because she was Russian. The interviewer pointed out that the judge had said Butina’s crime “was a threat to our democratic institutions”.
Maria responded that “it is very sad for me, because it shows how broken the justice system in the United States is”.
According to her, the judge was “absolutely wrong”.
“You cannot charge a person with a crime for collecting information with not specifying what information. I have never collected any sensitive or classified information,” the Russian noted.
When asked to comment on the charges that she had been “making connections with Republicans” in order to “influence US policy”, Butina pointed out that “if I were not Russian, that would be called social networking”.
“It’s all conspiracy theories. There is absolutely no proof of any of that, and I am not aware of any actions like this,” Maria added, rejecting allegations that there were some “government person” behind her.
“I never sought to influence your policies. I came here on my own because I wanted to learn from the United States and go back to Russia to make Russia better,” Butina emphasized.
Butina, 30, was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018, ahead of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Helsinki. She was charged with conspiracy to act as a foreign agent in the United States. American intelligence services argued that the Russian citizen carried out this activity without being registered as an agent of a foreign state at the Department of Justice.
On December 13, 2018, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the US law governing foreign agents operating in the country and signed a plea bargain. On April 26, 2019, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Moscow stated that the charges had been trumped-up, and demanded her release.
Butina’s sentence ended on October 25. She was released from prison and deported to Russia. The Russian initially went to the United States for a college course and obtained a master’s degree in international relations from American University in Washington.