Maria Butina, a Russian student whose political activities in the U.S. came under FBI scrutiny amid an investigation of 2016 election interference, was released from a Florida prison on Friday while serving an 18-month sentence, the Washington Post reports. Butina pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with a senior Russian official to access the National Rifle Association and other groups without registering with the U.S. Justice Department, as required by law. She was released from a federal lockup in Tallahassee, where immigration agents took her. She was being flown back to Russia.
Butina’s lawyer complained that her case was stained by anti-Russian sentiment in the midst of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the last presidential election. Butina was the first Russian national convicted of seeking to influence U.S. policy in the run-up to that election. At her sentencing in April, Butina said, “though it was not my intention to harm the American people, I did that by not notifying the Attorney General of my actions. I deeply regret this crime . . . Please accept my apology and allow me to begin again.” Butina said she worked under Alexander Torshin, a former Russian government official, and with an American political operative on a multiyear scheme to establish unofficial lines of communications with Americans who could influence U.S. politics.