A Russian woman has admitted to acting as an agent for the Kremlin to get close to the Republican party in an effort to influence US policies. Maria Butina, 30, pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy in a court in Washington on Thursday, admitting to working under the direction of a top Russian official to infiltrate the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful gun rights group closely aligned with senior Republican politicians. She is the first Russian citizen to be convicted of working to shape US policy in the run up and through the 2016 election campaign, agreeing to co-operate with prosecutors for less prison time. Appearing before Judge Tanya Chutkan, she admitted to conspiring to work with Alexander Torshin, a former deputy governor of Russia's central bank, and two US citizens as a Russian agent from 2015 until her 2018 arrest. Butina, a former graduate student at American University in Washington who publicly advocated for gun rights, was arrested in July and has been held in jail without bail ever since. Maria Butina was said to be directed by Alexander Torshin, previously described as Vladimir Putin's "emissary" Credit: AP She initially pleaded not guilty to the charges against her but in the last week it was revealed she had reversed course and agreed to co-operate with prosecutors. Her aim was to make contacts with officials at the NRA, conservative figures and 2016 presidential candidates in order to set up unofficial back channels with high-ranking American politicians. Butina is known to have met with the president's son, Donald Trump Jnr, during one of the NRA's conventions as well as reportedly hosting a party in Washington attended by Trump campaign aides in November 2016. Prosecutors told the court that Butina drafted a March 2015 "Diplomacy Project" that called for establishing unofficial channels of communication between high-ranking American politicians in order to help advance Russia's interests. In this courtroom sketch, Maria Butina, left, is shown next to her attorney Robert Driscoll Credit: AP To carry out the plan, Butina requested $125,000 (£98,000) from a Russian billionaire to attend conferences and set up "separate meetings with interested parties" such as other Russian businessmen or people with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they added. The prosecutors said Butina invited "powerful members" of the NRA for a visit to Moscow where they met with high-level Russian officials. Apparent photos of the NRA Moscow trip are posted on her social media accounts. After the visit, according to court records, she sent a Russian official a message apparently referencing the NRA saying, "We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later." The alleged Russian agent was arrested in July Credit: Reuters Butina also hosted "friendship dinners" in the hope of establishing ties with people who "would have the ear of the next US presidential administration," prosecutors said. After the 2016 election, she proposed creating a dialogue with President Donald Trump's advisors, but the Russian official told her he did not think the foreign affairs ministry would "go for it," prosecutors said. The actions occurred during the same time period that US intelligence agencies have concluded Russia engaged in a campaign of propaganda and hacking to sow discord during the 2016 presidential race and boost Mr Trump's chances against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Butina was a gun rights activist Butina's lawyers previously identified the Russian official as Alexander Torshin, who was a deputy governor of Russia's central bank and was targeted with US Treasury Department sanctions in April. One of the two Americans referenced in the prosecution's case was Paul Erickson, an conservative political activist who was romantically linked to Butina. His lawyer William Hurd said: "Paul Erickson is a good American. He has done nothing to harm our country and never would." Russian officials hit back at the case, calling it a "modern political inquisition" in comments quoted by the RIA state news agency. She faces a maximum of five years in prison and deportation. As part of her agreement prosecutors dropped a second charge of violating a law that requires foreigners working for their government to register with the US Justice Department. Her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, estimated that under sentencing guidelines for similar crimes Butina could face up to six months in prison. Because of Butina's ongoing co-operation, the judge did not set a sentencing date but scheduled a hearing for February 12.
Three people who disappeared in a closed West Virginia mine five days ago have been rescued and taken to a hospital in what a family member called a "Christmas miracle."
At the close of a week of talks in Sweden, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a framework for political negotiations would be discussed at the next round of talks at the end of January between the Iranian-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015, had pressed the two sides to agree confidence-building steps to pave the way for a wider truce and a political process to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people. The conflict has pushed Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, to the verge of famine.
A middle school student in Delaware has been allowed to change his surname
The automaker Porsche has presented a prototype charging station in Germany with an output of up to 450kW. It can be used by electric models of all brands compatible with the European standard Type 2 variant of the widely used Combined Charging System (CCS). Increasing the available charge capacity to up to 450kW considerably reduces the charging time, in turn increasing the number of vehicles able to use the technology in a given space of time.
DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia police officer and a suspect died Thursday night after a traffic stop led to a foot chase and shooting just east of Atlanta, authorities said.
The former Canadian diplomat who has written about some of the touchiest geopolitical issues in the world, including China’s expanding military footprint in Africa and the North Korea nuclear crisis, is now at the center of a stand-off between two global super-powers. Kovrig was detained by China’s spy agency during a visit to Beijing on Monday, just nine days after Canadian authorities, acting on a U.S. request, arrested a top Huawei Technologies Co. executive in Vancouver. The Chinese government confirmed Kovrig has been detained, according to a Canadian government official briefing reporters Wednesday evening in Ottawa.
A disgruntled employee at a Canadian Walmart decided that he wasn’t going to
A Southwest Airlines flight headed from Seattle to Dallas was turned back mid-flight after it was discovered that a human heart had been left on board, officials said Thursday. The plane had was over eastern Idaho -- around 600 miles (950 kilometers) into the journey -- when staff discovered the "life critical cargo shipment," meant for delivery back in a Seattle hospital after being transported from California. "Once we realized the error we immediately worked to return to Seattle," airline spokesman Dan Landson told AFP.