WHY

Accused Russian Spy Maria Butina ‘Wanted to Influence Society,’ Family Says

The parents of alleged Russian operative Maria Butina say they can’t believe she knowingly worked on behalf of the Kremlin, but her sister says she “wanted to influence society,” in a new interview with NBC News. Butina’s family revealed that she was an ambitious student and first became interested in guns as a young girl. Butina has pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an undisclosed agent of Russia in the U.S., and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. The charge is reportedly unrelated to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Butina spent years building connections in American political circles and the National Rifle Association in an effort to push Moscow’s agenda. Butina was arrested just hours after President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin privately at a summit in Helsinki, Finland. The Russian government has strenuously denied that she has any ties to the Kremlin. Butina faces a potential prison term of up to five years and possible deportation after serving her sentence.