Maria Butina, the Russian pro-gun activist, convicted for working as a foreign agent without registration was released from jail in Florida on Friday, October 25. The 30-year-old woman was deported back to her home country. She reached Moscow on Saturday morning, greeted by her father and Russian journalists at Sheremetyevo airport. "Russians never surrender", she told reporters.
The 30-year-old Russian national went to the US in 2015 on a student visa to do masters in political science from American University in Washington DC. She was arrested on July 2018 by the FBI for infiltrating conservative political circles, especially the National Rifle Association (NRA) and furthering Russian agenda.
She pleaded guilty in December 2018 and accepted she worked as a foreign agent without registration but denied being a spy. Thereby, she was sentenced to a prison term of 18-month in April 2019. Till the date of her release on Oct 25, she had already served a jail term of 15 months, including the nine months she spent incarcerated from July until she was sentenced to a prison term in April, this year.
Moscow denied any involvement with her. President Vladimir Putin described her trial and imprisonment as 'arbitrary' and a 'travesty of justice'. Russia has largely seen the issue as a part of anti-Russia hysteria that has swept the nation since
According to her attorney Robert Driscoll, Butina was scheduled to be released in November, but a change in a federal law moved up her release date based on her credit for good behaviour. On Oct 25, she was released from Tallahasse Federal Correction Institute in Florida, shifted to the custody of US Immigration and Naturalization Service. She was taken to Miami, from where she was deported back to Moscow.
Upon her release, Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov said, "We're glad that finally, after very long delays, the American justice [system] made the decision that we sought", Russia Today reported.
The case captivated public attention in the United States as it happened at a time when the special council Robert Mueller was investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 Presidential elections.