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23 Nov, 2019 02:31

Butina to help Russians ‘in difficult situations’ abroad as part of new job at ombudsman’s office

Butina to help Russians ‘in difficult situations’ abroad as part of new job at ombudsman’s office

Less than a month after her return to Russia from the US, where she spent over a year behind bars, Maria Butina has joined the Russian ombudsman's office and will focus on helping compatriots who run into trouble abroad.

The Russian gun activist, whose case whipped up anti-Russian hysteria in the US and saw mainstream media telling juicy stories about her trading sex for political favors that later proved to be false, will now help those who find themselves similarly at fault outside Russia.

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said Butina had accepted an offer to join her team. Speaking at the State Duma Committee on International Affairs on Friday, Moskalkova said that she wants to set up a committee that would protect the rights of Russian citizens who find themselves in “difficult circumstances in life” when abroad, and Butina will be one of its members.

Also on rt.com ‘My hair color was proof of guilt’: Maria Butina talks her arrest, the NRA, and Senate testimony (FULL INTERVIEW)

Moskalkova said she believes the Russian gun rights activist to be a perfect fit for the job, considering her much-publicized experience in dealing with similar issues. Representatives of non-governmental organizations, scientists and citizen advocates will sit on the committee, the official said, which is tasked with providing all necessary support to Russian citizens. That includes drafting letters and preparing statements in support of Russian citizens, providing assistance to their families, as well as organizing round-table talks to raise awareness about the issue.

Butina, who returned to Russia in late October, went public about her ordeal, describing the time she spent in solitary confinement as “the most terrifying experience of her life.” She vowed to fight for the rights of other inmates. In an extensive interview with RT shortly after her arrival home, the gun activist said when she came to the US on a student visa back in June 2016, she hoped to “do something for the sake of friendship between the two countries” by engaging in civic diplomacy, hence her contacts with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Instead of building bridges, however, she was smeared in the American media and made a scapegoat of sorts amid the rampant Russophobic sentiment in the US.

Asked about her future plans, Butina said at the time that her return to Russia would not be“the end of the story,” but rather a new “beginning.”

Also on rt.com ‘Like a bad Hollywood flick with allegations as surreal as Alice in Wonderland’ – Russia’s Butina on US arrest

“I must now become a voice for those who are unduly accused or maltreated. I feel I have to do some human rights campaigning,” she said.

In July 2018, shortly after Butina finished her studies and obtained a work permit in the US, she was detained by the FBI on suspicion of conspiring to infiltrate the NRA with the goal of promoting Russian interests. After being held in solitary confinement for months, the Russian activist eventually crumbled under pressure and pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of a foreign government without proper registration. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison in December. While she agreed to cut a deal with the prosecution, Butina said she understood she would not receive a fair trial in the US.

“I would have been on trial for being Russian. I would have been sentenced to 15 years. So I believe I made the only right decision.”

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