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Accused Russian Agent In Washington Appears Near Settling Case

Maria Butina at a shooting range in Moscow in 2012.

A woman charged with working secretly for the Russian government to sway politicians in Washington appears to be moving toward a settlement of her case with U.S. prosecutors, according to her family and court documents.

Lawyers for Maria Butina and prosecutors said that they "remain optimistic about a pretrial resolution" in a court filing this week, while the Russian news agency TASS reported on November 29 that Butina's family expects her lawyers to make a pretrial deal to settle the case.

Prosecutors allege that Butina, 30, gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations and worked to develop relationships with mostly conservative U.S. politicians, including President Donald Trump, through her contacts with the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association.

Butina is a gun rights advocate who established a gun lobby group in Russia before traveling to Washington to study at the American University and get involved in U.S. politics.

The U.S. indictment charges that Butina's work in Washington was directed by a former Russian lawmaker and central bank official, Aleksandr Torshin, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department this year because of his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Butina is also charged with conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia. She has pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer says Butina was merely a student interested in American politics and seeking better U.S.-Russian relations.

Butina has mounted an aggressive defense since she was jailed in July. Her legal team tried to have the case thrown out earlier this month.

But a court filing on November 28 indicated that her lawyers are continuing to negotiate with U.S. prosecutors on a possible settlement and may be nearing a plea agreement. A hearing on the case is scheduled for next month.

Maria's father Valery Butin told TASS that he expects the negotiations to result in a pretrial settlement of the case.

"I would very much like them to make a deal because if they fail to do it, the prison term may turn out to be so long that we will lose our daughter," he told TASS in an interview.

The charges against Butina are unrelated to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, the charges are part of a larger push by the Justice Department to aggressively enforce U.S. laws governing foreign agents, including those accused of working for Russia, who seek to operate within the U.S. political system.

With reporting by TASS, AP, and Reuters
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