Accused Russian Agent Met With Suspected 'Kremlin Spy Recruiter'

Maria Butina, the Russian woman accused of acting as a Kremlin agent on U.S. soil, met with a top Russian official suspected of recruiting American spies, Politico reports. Federal prosecutors had said in court filings that Butina was acting under the direction of a prominent Kremlin-linked official, but his identity had not previously been released. A source familiar with the investigation told Politico the official is Oleg Zhiganov, the director of the Russian Cultural Center in D.C., a part of the Russian Foreign Ministry that has long been under scrutiny by U.S. counterintelligence officials. Butina’s meeting with Zhiganov was reportedly closely monitored by federal agents, though the subject matter of their discussion remains unclear. Butina’s defense attorney, Robert Driscoll, confirmed the meeting to Politico but cast doubt on authorities’ claims that Zhiganov is a Russian spy. “A Russian national having dinner with a Russian national is nothing unique at all,” he was quoted as saying.