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Ex-spy Maria Butina was one of hundreds of Russian individuals and entities targeted this week in the Biden administration’s latest round of sanctions in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

In the US, Butina is best known as the gun rights activist who pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an unregistered Russian agent.

Butina, 33, was one of 328 members of the Russian State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, to be sanctioned on Wednesday as Western officials ratchet up economic pressure in response to the war.

“The Russian State Duma continues to support Putin’s invasion, stifle the free flow of information, and infringe on the basic rights of the citizens of Russia. We call on those closest to Putin to cease and condemn this cold-blooded war,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement on the new sanctions.

Butina, a former student at American University, was charged with attempting to infiltrate prominent conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association, as part of a Kremlin-backed influence campaign ahead of the 2016 president election.

Maria Butina
Maria Butina was arrested after she attempted to infiltrate conservative groups as part of a Kremlin-backed influence campaign.
Getty Images

Butina served a 15-month stint in US prison and was released in 2019. She returned to Russia and got involved in politics, joining the State Duma in 2021.

Butina has been an outspoken figure in Russia since the invasion began. Earlier this month, she gave a bizarre interview to the BBC in which she denied Russia was targeting civilians during its military campaign and suggested Ukraine was bombing its own people.

“Russia is not bombing civilians, Russian military troops actually having humanitarian corridors,” Butina said.

Maria Butina
Maria Butina had previously defended Russia’s actions since the Ukraine war began.
AFP via Getty Images

Butina also helped to write the so-called “fake news law” in Russia, under which journalists can be put in prison for up to 15 years for reporting anything that contradicts the Kremlin’s official stance. The law prompted several media outlets to exit Russia.

Aside from sanctions directed at State Duma members and the parliamentary body itself, US officials targeted Herman Gref, the head of Russian financial institution Sberbank, and Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko.

The penalties also hit 48 Russian state-owned defense contractors and 17 board members of Russian financial institution Sovcombank. The US is also coordinating with international allies to sanction gold reserves held by Russia’s central bank.

Source: NYPOST

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