Patrick Byrne, former Overstock CEO (L) with Maria Butina, Russian agent (R) Getty Images/AP
Maria Butina, a former Russian agent, has been elected to the Russian parliamentary elections.
Butina was imprisoned in 2018 for being an unregistered foreign agent in America.
Butina received large amounts of money recently from Patrick Byrne (her ex-boyfriend and former CEO of Overstock.com) who is also a Donald Trump supporter.
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Maria Butina was the Russian agent who was convicted and sentenced for trying infiltrate American political organizations. She was elected this week to the State Duma.
As a candidate in Kirov Oblast, the 32-year old won the seat for President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party.
This is the latest chapter of a political thriller about the life of the young Russian. She was the girlfriend of powerful men from the US Right, and she made headlines after being arrested for spying. Before being released, she was detained and sent back to her homeland.
According to reports, the Russian agent arrived in America disguised as a gun-rights activist. He focused on the leadership of National Rifle Association (NRA), to meet high-profile Republican politicians, and to establish a "back-channel” of communication with the Kremlin.
Butina was detained in Washington DC in July 2018. She is accused of infiltrating powerful circles of political leaders at the request of Russian officials.
She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for conspiring to act in foreign agents's name. Putin called the sentence "an outrage." She was deported to Russia after her release in October 2019.
"I have one weakness, as a woman: I really like smart guys."
Maria Butina is seen in a photo released by the Alexandria Sheriff's Office, Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A August 18, 2018. Alexandria Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS/File photo
Insider can confirm that Butina has maintained all of her US connections. Patrick Byrne (59), a former CEO of Overstock.com, and a Donald Trump supporter and conspiracist, has given her large sums in the past year.
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Byrne answered Insider's questions about the gifts in a email. She said that she made the gift because she wanted to help Maria get on her feet again and allow her to start a new life in Russia.
Butina and Byrne had been in a relationship. Byrne later stated that he had passed information about his lover to the FBI.
Federal prosecutors claimed that Butina engaged in sex-for favors while networking with Washington DC political circles.
Butina had a romantic relationship for a while with Paul Erickson (59), a long-time Republican strategist and gun-rights activist. She met Paul in Moscow in 2013, and they lived together for a time.
Butina wrote Erickson in 2015 about her plans to influence US policies towards Russia through a push with the GOP through NRA. Erickson replied with some advice.
Butina began a relationship with Byrne around this time.
According to The New York Post, Butina stated that Byrne was her greatest weakness. She said: "I really like smart men. This is my greatest weakness and it gets me into trouble all the times.
Later, Byrne stated that he maintained his relationship with Butina under the guidance of the FBI. Butina claimed once that Byrne tried to poison her to get her to confess to his actions while she was under the influence.
According to asset disclosures, even though it appears that Byrne betrayed Butina, an Alexei Navalny video was made by her team. It revealed that Byrne had gifted Butina millions of Russian rubles over the past year.
Byrne, recalling their unique relationship, told Insider that the money he sent Maria was to make amends. "Because Maria had hurt me for my role in helping the FBI set Maria up and the way in which I had mistreated her in my own plans."
He added that the couple would never be reunited.
"Maria, I know we will never see each other again. But it felt right to do so. "I made sure that this act of kindness was legal and notarized to all authorities."
Russia's Communist Party demanded that election officials reject Butina’s candidacy last month, claiming she was the recipient of foreign funding. This specifically refers to Byrne’s gifts.
Butina could not be reached by Insider for comment.
Butina was photographed at NRA events with top GOP politicians
Maria Butina poses in a photo on a Moscow shooting range, Russia, April 22, 2012. Pavel Ptitsin/AP
Butina began her journey into politics in 2011 when she started Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights organization. She also worked as an assistant to Alexander Torshin, a former senator.
Butina and Torshin developed close relationships with NRA. They regularly flew to the USA to attend conferences, and were named "life members" of the organization.
Butina was photographed at NRA events in 2014 and 2015. She was pictured with former senator Rick Santorum and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
She also met Donald Trump Jr. during an NRA convention, and asked Donald Trump about Russia relations at the event.
She moved to the US in 2016 on a student visa. The FBI began monitoring her and eventually captured her as a spy.
Butina was released from jail and returned to Moscow, where she took a job with the Russian state-funded television station RT.
Butina recorded a segment where she visited Alexei Navalny while he was in prison in April 2021 to report on his "exemplary" conditions and counter the protests of the opposition leader that he was being treated poorly.
Navalny was in a hunger strike at the time after being denied medical treatment.
The Russian parliamentary elections this weekend were widely criticized for being opaque and unfair, after the Kremlin repressed political opposition and restricted press freedom.
Alexei Navalny encouraged voters to vote tactically to defeat United Russia candidates as part of a movement called “smart voting.”
It remains to see what kind of politician the new Butina will become and what this chapter will bring.
Butina stated in a campaign video that she was indebted her country and her people because "everyone, from the President to residents deep in Russia, fought for me release."
She said, "I will be very happy to be of use to the Kirov region."
Business Insider has the original article.