Who is Maria Butina?

• Born in Barnaul, in Siberia, in 1989 to an engineer mother and entrepreneur father, Maria Butina was interested in politics from an early age and studied political science at Altu State University.

• Her father and grandfather were hunters, and she founded a group called The Right to Bear Arms in 2012 to promote liberalisation of gun ownership laws in Russia.

• Initially, on graduating, she followed in her businessman father’s footsteps, launching and running a furniture store in Siberia.

• But in 2011 she sold the store to move to Moscow to pursue a career in politics, and maintain her gun rights activism.

• She took up an unpaid role as a special assistant to a well-connected Russian senator, Aleksandr Torshin, and worked for him from 2011 to 2015 while he was serving on the Russian federal council as first vice-chairman. He shared her passion for guns, being declared a life member of the NRA and travelling to the US for conferences — until he was stopped by sanctions in April of this year.

• By 2015 she was frequently in the US, and attended a Trump rally in Las Vegas a month after his candidacy was declared and asked him about his views on Vladimir Putin.

• She traveled to gun shows and right-wing events from the Freedomfest in Las Vegas to a National Rifle Association meeting in Indianapolis, according to her own social media posts. Along the way, she met the governor of Wisconsin, and gave speeches at a high school and university in South Dakota.

• The following year she was studying for a Master’s in international relations at the American University’s Kogod School of Business, but her gun activism in Russia remained strong.

• “We and gun rights advocates in many other countries have learned important lessons from the American NRA,” Butina said at the time. “The power of average citizens steadily seeking ever greater gun rights through the power of persuasion and smart communication.”

• In February 2016, Butina set up a company in South Dakota with Republican veteran strategist Paul Erickson, with whom, according to the Washington Post, she was in a romantic relationship.

• In November, after the election, she held a fancy dress party in Washington DC attended by Erickson and Trump campaign aides.

• She then attended Trump’s inauguration, with Erickson by her side.

— By Harriet Alexander and Matthew Bodner/The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018


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