Convicted Russian Agent Maria Butina Pleads For Money In Video From Jail

Butina, who is serving 18 months in jail, is asking for the public's help to pay her legal fees.

Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist convicted of working for the Kremlin without registering as a foreign agent, is speaking out from jail, asking the public to help with her legal expenses.

Alexander Ionov, the founder of a nonprofit called the Anti-Globalization Movement, released a video of Butina’s public appeal on Instagram on Saturday. Butina can be seen sitting in front of bunk beds and talking through a telephone handset. 

Delivering her message in Russian, Butina begged for money to help pay her lawyer who is filing an appeal, according to the Associated Press.

During a Sunday appearance on state television, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “We aren’t financing a lawyer, but we are doing everything so that she will be afforded all rights as a Russian citizen,” the AP reported.

Russian news agency TASS reported that the footage was shot inside Oklahoma’s Grady County Jail.

Ionov signed his video post on behalf of the “International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights” and “The Maria Butina Foundation,” a site through which he has been raising money for Butina since 2018. According to The Atlantic, Ionov is a Russian lobbyist with links to the Kremlin.

It’s unclear how Ionov, who has over 12,000 followers on Instagram, obtained the video.

In late April, Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring against the U.S. by working on behalf of a Russian lawmaker. She pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2018 and has been incarcerated since July of that year, receiving credit for the time she has already served.

On Wednesday, Rolling Stone reported that Butina had filed an appeal to her sentence in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, however, the paperwork does not explain the reason behind her decision.

During her time as a graduate student at Washington, D.C.’s American University, the 30-year-old gun rights activist made connections with the National Rifle Association in an attempt to influence Republican politics and conservative groups at the time of the 2016 presidential election.

Though she tried during her sentencing to paint herself as a misguided student who hoped to mend U.S.-Russia relations, she received no sympathy from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan who called her work “dangerous,” according to CNN.

“This was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student,” the judge said.