A U.S. judge ordered the former American University graduate student jailed pending trial on Wednesday, after prosecutors warned that her alleged ties to Russian intelligence make her a flight risk.
The #FreeMariaButina hashtag was launched by the foreign ministry’s official Twitter account Thursday afternoon, with Butina’s face also made the account’s profile picture.
Butina is accused of working with a Russian intelligence official and two unidentified Americans to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization and influence U.S. foreign policy towards Russia.
Prosecutors alleged she used sex and deception to forge influential connections, working covertly to infiltrate organizations including the National Rifle Association, gather intelligence and establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin.
She has denied any wrongdoing.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Russian government was “dismayed” at Butina’s arrest, which she said was politically motivated and designed to “sabotage” U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
“As we understand it, the order came from those who continue to stir up Russophobic hysteria, for which purpose they regularly plant more fictional sensations about Russia’s alleged interference in the internal affairs of the United States,” Zakharova said in a statement.
“It appears that somebody took a watch, a calculator and timed when the decision on Maria Butina’s arrest should be taken in order to do as much as possible to sabotage the results of the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. This is how good the timing was.”
Russian Embassy officials were expected to meet Butina on Thursday for the first time since her arrest, the embassy said in a Facebook post.
— With files from the Associated Press