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russian intrigue
July 26, 2018

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, famous for her meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016, is even closer to top Russian government officials than previously thought, The Associated Press reports.

AP was able to look at emails, legal documents, and transcripts related to Veselnitskaya obtained by the Dossier Center, a London-based investigative unit. Veselnitskaya allegedly met with Trump Jr. after promising dirt from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton; she has denied acting on behalf of the Kremlin. The emails show she received help from senior interior ministry officials in a case involving a major client, and she also was a ghostwriter for top government lawyers, AP reports. Bill Browder is a businessman and critic of the Kremlin, and emails show that she was part of an effort to get information on his former law firm's finances. Her office prepared a draft version of an affidavit sent from Russian Deputy General Prosecutor Mikhail Alexandrov's to Cypriot authorities, which surprised Browder.

"If her office is drafting replies for Russian-Cyprus law enforcement cooperation, in my opinion that effectively shows that she's an agent for the Russian government and not an independent lawyer as she claims," Browder said. The Russian Embassy in Cyprus told AP it had "no idea who is Nataliya Veselnitskaya." Read more about the documents and Veselnitskaya's connections at The Associated Press. Catherine Garcia

July 22, 2018

In 2015, accused Russian agent Mariia Butina met with senior officials at the U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve while working as an interpreter for Alexander Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank's deputy governor, Reuters reports.

Torshin and Butina had one meeting with Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, and another with Stanley Fischer, then Fed vice chairman, with both arranged by the Center for the National Interest. The pro-Russia foreign policy think tank put together a report regarding its Russia-related activities from 2013 to 2015, Reuters reports, and said the meetings helped bring together "leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia."

Butina, 29, pleaded not guilty last week to charges she acted as a foreign agent for Russia. Fischer told Reuters he did meet with Torshin, who has close ties to Putin, and his interpreter, but couldn't remember much beyond that they discussed "the state of the Russian economy." Catherine Garcia

July 19, 2018

Alleged Kremlin agent Mariia Butina lied to obtain a student visa in 2016 and offered to have sex with an American in order to get a job at an unidentified special interest organization, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Butina, who was arrested Sunday, is charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of the Russian government, with prosecutors saying she was part of a campaign to influence high-level politicians to go along with Russian objectives. She allegedly started by infiltrating conservative circles, including the National Rifle Association, in order to gain access to politicians, all while staying in contact with Russian intelligence operatives and an oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin.

Prosecutors said she lived with a Republican political operative that she referred to as her boyfriend, but she had "disdain" for him and made him do her homework for classes at American University, The New York Times reports. It's believed that Butina worked under the direction of Alexander Torshin, the deputy head of the Russian central bank with ties to Russian security services. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied Butina bail, after prosecutors argued she was a flight risk. If convicted, Butina could face up to 15 years in prison. She has not been charged with espionage, and this case is not part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling. Catherine Garcia

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