A 29-year-old Russian woman has been arrested for conspiring to influence US politics by cultivating ties with political groups including the National Rifle Association.
Mariia Butina was arrested in Washington on Sunday and appeared in court in the US capital on Monday, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia “by developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics,” the statement said.
It said that Butina had broken US law by not disclosing that she was acting on behalf of the Russian government.
The Justice Department said Butina had close ties to a “Russian official” who was not identified in the arrest documents but has been widely reported to be a Russian politician named Alexander Torshin.
Torshin is currently a senior official with Russia’s central bank and a former top Russian lawmaker.
The Justice Department said Butina carried out her activities at the direction of the “Russian official.”
It said Butina and the official sought to develop relationships with US politicians to create “back channel” lines of communications that could be “used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus.”
Among the relationships allegedly forged by Butina were ties with the NRA, which is a strong ally of the Republican Party.