Woman accused of being Russian agent expected to change plea

A woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government was expected to plead guilty on Thursday, days after prosecutors signaled they had reached a deal.

Maria Butina, 30, was to appear before a federal judge, who must sign off on any plea arrangement.

The gun rights activist, who was arrested in July, is accused of gathering intelligence on American officials and political organisations. Prosecutors say Butina's work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker. They say she worked to develop relationships with American politicians through her contacts with the National Rifle Association.

Prosecutors have charged that her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who was penalised by the Treasury Department for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Butina was charged with conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia. Her lawyer has argued that Butina was a student interested in American politics and better US-Russian relations.

Butina's court appearance comes days after her lawyers and prosecutors filed court papers asking to change her plea. They said they had "resolved" the case.

The charges against Butina were brought by federal prosecutors in Washington, and her case was unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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