- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Maria Butina has been asked to advocate for other Russians jailed abroad following her recent completion of a federal prison sentence in the United States.

Tatiana Moskalkova, the Russian high commissioner for human rights, asked Butina on Monday to accept a role on a working group that Ms. Moskalkova credited with having fought for Butina’s freedom.

“I invite you to work in our group for the protection of compatriots abroad, and I am sure that together we can bring a lot of benefit to people who find themselves in a difficult life situation abroad,” Ms. Moskalkova told Butina, according to the commissioner’s website.

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Butina, a 31-year-old gun rights activist, was arrested in the U.S. in July 2018 and charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. She later pleaded guilty to a single related count of conspiracy, and she was deported to Russia promptly upon finishing her prison sentence less than two months ago.

Ms. Moskalkova said the working group fights to protect the rights of Russians jailed abroad, including Butina and “other citizens in prison on far-fetched grounds,” according to the commissioner’s website.

It was not immediately clear if Butina would accept the offer.

The position on the working group is hardly the first offer extended to Butina since she arrived in Russia on Oct. 26. Altai State University in southern Siberia announced earlier this month that Butina has agreed to lecture about cybersecurity at the school.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Butina infiltrated groups including the National Rifle Association to covertly advance Russian interests abroad. She has denied spying for Moscow and previously said she was “building peace” between the U.S. and Russia.

Ms. Moskalkova, a retired police general, has served as the Russian high commissioner for human rights since 2016. Her office’s main goal is to “facilitate implementation of civil and human rights and freedoms” in Russia, according to its website.

International monitoring groups have largely found that freedoms have diminished in Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, with Human Rights Watch previously referring to 2018 as a “bleak year for human rights” in Russia.

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