An 18-month sentence for Maria Butina, a Russian operative who used her NRA activism to illegally infiltrate conservative political circles, was an effort to "save face" for the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.
Speaking with reporters after an international forum in Beijing, Putin said there was nothing to charge Butina with.
"It's not clear what she was sentenced for," the Russian president said. "What crime did she commit?
However, she admitted to harming relations between the two superpowers.
"It has never been my intention to harm American people, but I did so by not notifying your government. It has harmed my attempts to improve relations," she said. “I have three degrees, but now I’m a convicted felon with no money, no job and no freedom.”
“Instead of building peace, I created discord,” she said.
But Chutkan didn't buy Butina's tearful claims of innocent ignorance of the law, saying the Russian operative knew exactly what she was doing.
"She was doing this under the direction of a Russian official ... at a time that Russia was looking to interfere with the U.S. political process," the judge said. “This was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student."