Gun rights activist and Russian national Maria Butina – who has pleaded guilty to being a secret agent for Moscow – actively supported the Russian military takeover of Crimea at the same time the National Rifle Association was wooing her, Mother Jones reported.
According to outlet, in the wake of the invasion and annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Butina denounced retaliatory sanctions by the Obama administration and traveled to Crimea to promote the arming of pro-Russian separatists.
Butina had been cultivating partnerships with gun rights groups internationally in late 2013, but in March 2017 mobilized to expand her group, “Right to Bear Arms,” into Crimea, where Russian President Vladimir Putin sent in troops and declared it part of the Russian Federation, the outlet reported.
After President Barack Obama announced sanctions in response, Butina posted a lengthy commentary online, warning the sanctions would “bankrupt the Russian arms industry,” calling them “a direct threat to national security,” Mother Jones reported. She then announced plans to travel to Crimea and establish offices for her group and to advise local citizens on arming themselves under Russian law, the outlet reported.
In March 2014, Butina held a press conference with the separatist Crimean Front at their newly seized media headquarters – and four weeks later, she went to Indianapolis for the NRA annual convention, where NRA executives welcomed her as a VIP and where she posted photos of herself with NRA leaders, Mother Jones reported. She also wrote it was only after NRA leaders had met with her in Moscow that she got a visa to come to the United States, the outlet reported.
In a statement, NRA counsel William Brewer told Mother Jones: “NRA executives were unaware of the alleged activities in question and the organization is not in a position to comment on them.”
Butina’s boyfiend, GOP operative Paul Erickson, was the featured guest at meeting of Butina’s group at its Moscow headquarters in August 2014, Mother Jones reported. It was announced Wednesday that Erickson was indicted on wire fraud and money laundering charges, CNN reported. The charges are unrelated to Butina’s guilty plea in December, the outlet noted.
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