On Wednesday, December 26, Russia’s embassy in the U.S. tweeted a link to a press release saying Maria Butina had spent 36 straight days in administrative segregation.
“All together she has spent over 3 months in complete isolation.”
The embassy said despite “harsh” detention conditions, Butina was holding up and had not given up hope of returning to her family.
“We urged the prison authorities to show Maria Butina humane treatment,” the press release stated. “We continue to struggle for her prompt release.”
The Russian Embassy in Canada retweeted that link on Thursday, along with the following commentary:
#FreeMariaButina is a showcase that exposes all bias & hypocrisy of #feminist agenda, actively promoted in some western countries
When there’s a real need for the mighty voices to speak up, we only have a deafening radio silence
Women’s rights = human rights #MeToo someone? https://t.co/yWVFnTrvFU
— Russia in Canada (@RussianEmbassyC) 27 декабря 2018 г.
Regardless of gender, Butina’s is a criminal case of a confessed conspirator and the Russian embassy’s tactic of trying to tie it to feminism and the Me Too movement is nothing new.
According to Russian disinformation analyst Paula Chertok, referring to “the West’s hypocrisy” is a “a favorite form of whataboutism used by Russian propagandists to attack the West’s democratic values and fundamental institutions of Western open society – freedom of speech, free press, freedom of assembly, due process, rule of law.”
On December 13, Butina appeared before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and acting under the direction of the Russian government.
As part of the plea deal, Butina faces a maximum of five years in prison and the prospect of deportation upon completing her sentence.
Polygraph.info has previously looked into issues regarding the use of solitary confinement and Butina’s prison conditions. As previously reported, there is no evidence that Butina is facing extraordinary conditions by the standards of the U.S. criminal justice system, nor has evidence been provided that she has been mistreated while in prison.
When asked by the judge, “Are you pleading guilty not for any other reason but because you are guilty?” Butina answered, “Yes, guilty.”
Meanwhile, the attempt by Russia’s embassy in Canada to tie Butina’s case to the Me Too movement, which focuses on sexual assault and harassment, or use it to attack the “bias and hypocrisy of the feminist agenda,” is specious.
In July, U.S. prosecutors alleged that Butina had offered “sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”
But in September, they were forced to admit they had been “mistaken” when analyzing text messages between Butina and the man mentioned in her indictment as the “U.S. Person 1.” The latter was subsequently identified by media as her boyfriend Paul Erickson, a conservative political operative who had helped introduce Butina to influential figures in the U.S. to advance Russia’s interests.
“The impact of this inflammatory allegation, which painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power, cannot be overstated,” Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney, wrote at the time.
He would later comment that the U.S. government’s focus on Butina’s sex life has “gone too far and transformed into an irrelevant obsession.”
Despite the sexually-charged and ultimately “erroneous” allegations levelled at Butina, none of the charges she faced, nor those she pleaded to, were connected to trading sex for access. Butina herself has never claimed to be the victim of sexual harassment or assault.
She was ultimately charged with acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General, and conspiracy to commit an offence against the U.S.
In her plea deal, Butina admitted to conspiring with a Russian official and two Americans to infiltrate the National Rifle Association to create unofficial lines of communication among U.S. conservatives with the expressed goal of advancing Russia’s interests. As part of her plea deal, one count of acting as a covert foreign agent was dropped.
While the issues of how Butina’s gender played into media portrayals of her case and prosecutors alleged efforts to paint her as a “Kremlin-trained seductress” can be debated, there appear to be no grounds to argue that her decision to plead guilty to conspiracy somehow exposes the “bias and hypocrisy” of the feminist agenda.
Ironically, as Newsweek magazine noted, Russian television presenter Andrey Malakhov consciously played up the sex angle on Russian state television.
“What if [Butina’s] aims were purely sexual? … Some people like to sleep with famous athletes and some with politicians. She went there and wanted to meet them, that’s all,” Malakhov said during an interview with Butina’s father before a live studio audience.
Ultimately, Butina’s case and guilty plea had no connection to the Me Too movement.
Polygraph.info therefore finds the latest claim by the Russian Embassy in Canada to be false.