MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin says that a Russian woman in custody in the United States who has pleaded guilty to acting as a covert agent of the Russian government hasn’t carried out any government missions.
Earlier this month, Maria Butina pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge for trying to infiltrate conservative political groups in the U.S., as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.
Speaking Thursday at his annual news conference, Putin claimed that Butina made the plea because of the threat of a long prison sentence in the case, which he described as fabricated.
He emphasized that “she hasn’t carried out any tasks set by the government, government organs, no matter what she says, facing the … prospect of spending 12-15 years in prison.”
The Russian leader pledged that Russia will continue to support Butina.