Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina was released from a Florida prison on Friday and is expected to arrive in Russia on Saturday morning.
Butina was released into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and has already boarded a plane in Miami bound for Moscow.
Butina was arrested in July 2018 and was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent. She entered a plea deal that December and received an 18-month sentence, credited with time served.
Butina organized an NRA delegation visit to Russia in 2015 on behalf of her own gun rights organization. She visited the US for NRA events before moving there in 2016 on a student visa to attend American University in Washington DC.
The allegation against Butina was that she infiltrated Republican circles on behalf of the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. Ultimately these claims were unfounded, and she was charged for simply failing to fill out a form to register herself as a foreign agent with the U.S. government.
Since her arrest, Butina was portrayed as a spy by US media outlets. The coverage after her release was no different. Politico ran a story titled, “Maria Butina, who admitted being secret agent of the Kremlin, out of prison.” AP news titled their story on Butina, “Russian woman who admitted being secret agent out of prison.”
The term “secret agent” is misleading, everything Butina did in the US was done in the open. It was no secret that she was a Russian looking to learn how to further gun rights in her own country. Butina was also outspoken about her other goal, improving US-Russia relations.
After an NRA event Butina attended in 2015, she posted on her blog, “maybe such meetings are the beginning of a new dialogue between Russia and the US and back from the Cold War to the peaceful existence of the two great powers?!”