US arrest of Russian attempt to undermine Trump-Putin summit
Russia's Foreign Ministry says the arrest this week of a Russian national in the United States was a deliberate attempt to undermine a summit between President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland.
According to reports, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday the detention of Maria Butina, which took place on Sunday, a day before the summit, had no grounds and was meant to affect the positive outcome of the summit.
Putin and Trump met in a freighted atmosphere amid criticism that Trump was approaching Russia at the expense of Washington's allies in Europe. Trump is also accused of trying to cover up his alleged links to the Russians in the run-up to his presidency two years ago.
US authorities said Monday that they had charged Butina, 29, with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian government through establishing relationships and infiltrating organizations that have influence in US politics.
“Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank,” said the US Department of Justice in a press release, adding, “This Russian official was sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.”
Zakharova dismissed the charges and said the arrest happened “with the obvious task of minimizing the positive effect” of the summit between Putin and Trump.
Both leaders have described their meeting as positive, saying it would help Moscow and Washington improve their strained relations.