The Russian embassy in the US has accused American authorities of subjecting jailed Russian gun activist and ‘agent’ Maria Butina to cruel and inhumane treatment, including unwarranted strip searches.
Butina was arrested and detained in Washington DC in July on espionage charges. The 29-year old is accused of acting as an agent of the Russian government without informing the US attorney general. Since her arrest, representatives of the Russian embassy have checked in on Butina, most recently visiting her on Thursday.
In a Facebook post, the embassy says Butina is being subjected to “psychological pressure and humiliation” as she awaits trial.
Butina is being denied walks outdoors, and is strip searched after every visit with lawyers, embassy staff, and acquaintances. Butina is allegedly subjected to night checks every 15 minutes, a practice usually reserved for suicidal prisoners.
“There are attempts to break her will,” the embassy said, and announced that it would be sending an official complaint to the US State Department over Butina’s treatment in jail.
Butina is allegedly being denied letters in her native Russian, as her jailers think they might contain “coded messages.”Embassy staff say that she has not been provided with an interpreter.
On an earlier visit, embassy staff raised concern that Butina was being denied proper medical care. This time, the situation is apparently much the same. A painful swelling on Butina’s leg – a result of her cell’s cold temperature – has not been treated, and the jailed activist is given only painkillers.
Butina’s arrest was covered with glee by much of the American media, who published salacious stories, alleging that she traded sex for favors as she cosied up to Republican politicians. Likewise, the #FreeMariaButina social media campaign launched by the Russian Foreign Ministry was instantly hijacked with abusive and sexist comments.
“The hysteria in American social media, further flamed by Russophobic publications in the mainstream media, brings to mind the Salem Witch Trials,” read the embassy’s Facebook post.
Before falling victim to Washington’s anti-Russian crusade, Butina moved to the US on a student visa in 2016. She graduated from American University in Washington DC with a master’s degree in international relations earlier this year.
Butina is also the founder of Right to Bear Arms, a pro-gun organization that lobbies to change Russia’s strict gun laws. Right to Bear Arms has developed ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the US. In addition, Butina met and socialized with several conservative political figures.
“Maria holds up strong, her determination to prove her innocence only grows more resilient,” read the embassy’s post. Staff also announced that they will be setting up a legal defense fund for Butina.