Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to not registering as an agent for the Russian government while in the United States, has blasted the U.S. judicial system, calling her 18-month prison sentence "absolutely absurd" and a "disgrace."
Speaking from a U.S. jail by phone to Russian reporters, Butina on April 30 said she "didn't expect such a severe punishment."
"This is absolutely absurd. This is a huge disgrace for the U.S. justice system," she added.
Butina said the trial had brought her family a debt of some 40 million rubles ($618,000) and that she needed assistance in paying it back.
"We need money very much," she said.
Butina complained that the sentence she received would have been the same if she had been convicted of selling secrets to China.
In sentencing Butina in a Washington, D.C., federal court on April 26, a U.S. judge accepted what prosecutors had requested in presentencing filings.
The judge also ordered Butina, 30, to be deported to Russia immediately after she finishes her prison sentence, which is expected in January 2020 after receiving credit for the time she has spent in U.S. custody.
Prosecutors say that before and during her studies at American University in Washington, she sought to build relationships with U.S. conservative political groups, including the influential National Rifle Association, on behalf of at least one powerful Kremlin-connected lawmaker.
Butina pleaded guilty in December and agreed to cooperate with investigators. She has been held in custody since her arrest.