Russian 'agent' arrested in U.S. to undermine Putin-Trump summit – Moscow

MOSCOW, Russia – Moscow on Wednesday, July 18, slammed the arrest in the United States of a Russian national for conspiring to influence US politics, saying it was intended to undermine the "positive results" of a summit between the US and Russian leaders.

"This happened with the obvious task of minimizing the positive effect" of this week's Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US leader Donald Trump, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

Maria Butina was arrested in Washington on Sunday and appeared in court on Monday. 

In Russia, she is known as a fervent gun rights activist with ties to Alexander Torshin, a senior official with Russia's central bank and a former lawmaker.

Butina's arrest was announced as Trump flew back from Helsinki to Washington, following an inaugural summit with Putin. 

Trump has been accused of failing to stand up to the Russian leader over alleged meddling in the 2016 election in the United States, with many US critics calling him a "traitor."

Butina, 29, was charged with conspiring to act as an agent of Russia "by developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics," the Justice Department said.

"Such unfounded claims against our compatriot simply look strange," Zakharova told reporters, adding that Butina had openly resided in the United States "for a long time" and did not hide from anyone.

"There is an impression the FBI is simply carrying out a clearly political order," she added, suggesting the timing of Butina's arrest was timed to coincide with the high-stakes summit.

Zakharova added that the Russian authorities were looking to secure access to her.

The Justice Department said Butina had broken US law by not disclosing to authorities that she was acting on behalf of the Russian government.

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." – Rappler.com