She was jailed for infiltrating the NRA and using them to influence American politics, but now she is free. 

Courtesy of The Daily Beast

Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to act on behalf of the Russian government as a clandestine foreign agent in the United States, was released Friday into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The task assigned to ICE was to get Butina out of the country without allowing the Russian media to make it a huge publicity stunt on American soil.

But once Butina left American airspace all bets were off:

Appearing on 60 Minutes—the most popular news talk show in Russia—the correspondent of Russia’s state-TV channel Rossiya-24 Valentin Bogdanov pointed out that the Western media no longer dares to call Butina a spy. “They’re being careful,” Bogdanov said, speculating that media outlets are afraid of being sued for using the wrong language. In the Kremlin-controlled Russian media, Butina is being described mainly in glowing terms.

(It should be noted that Butina was not called a spy because she was seen more as an instrument of the Kremlin to impact politics here in America rather than a person assigned to gather information and report back.)

The Motherland welcomed Butina with a mighty bear hug. The host of 60 Minutes, Evgeny Popov, told The Daily Beast: “She is a hero! You are not.” He could not specify the nature of Butina’s alleged heroic deeds but Popov predicted that Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko would soon follow suit and also be released from U.S. custody. Bout is an international arms dealer, convicted of conspiring to sell weapons to a foreign terrorist group and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

During Friday’s show, Popov exclaimed: “Good news from the United States, which rarely happens! Nonetheless, our compatriot Maria Butina is being released early. Motherland awaits!” Popov’s wife and co-host of 60 Minutes, Olga Skabeeva, claimed that Butina’s confessions and her guilty plea should be disregarded, since they were allegedly extracted by “torture” in U.S. custody. Popov lamented: “This person is just a victim! A political prisoner! A victim of the elections! A victim of attacks against Trump and imaginary Russian interference.” Skabeeva added: “They suddenly let her go, because the scandal with election interference has ended.”

(Actually she served her sentence and was released.)

The Russian media wants to use Butina’s case as an example of what they view as America’s “Russophobia,” or fear of Russia. 

For her part Butina is embracing the party line and making sure to stay in the Kremlin’s good graces:

Arriving to Moscow Saturday morning, Maria Butina was greeted with smiles and flowers by Russian government officials—including Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, along with family members, well-wishers and hordes of reporters. Butina said, “I would like to thank the Russian Foreign Ministry and every diplomat who fought hard for me… I did not give up because I knew I could not do that… As I said in one of my videos: the Russians never give up.”

Yeah, somehow I don’t think we have heard the last from Maria Butina.