A lot of chatter about accused Russian spy Maria Butina has likened her to Jennifer Lawrence’s titular Red Sparrow character. But that’s too easy a nickname. Let’s use a name Butina herself would endorse, something reflecting her nature as the sly hunter: Red Fox.
The Red Fox may be racing with her old boyfriend, Wild Hare Paul Erickson, to see who can roll over on the other to federal prosecutors. While I have suggested that Butina’s revelation that she was faking her affection for Erickson as part of the job while offering sex to at least one other mark in her alleged Russian intel op could induce Erickson to turn state’s witness and help bury her, Seth Tupper reported this week that Butina offered in a May 29 letter to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Dakota by providing “information and testimony regarding her knowledge of the illegal activities of others.” Tupper says federal prosecutor Erik Kenerson has referred to a “fraud investigation” “directed at U.S. Person 1,” widely reported to be apparent financial scammer Erickson.
Given the backing of Russian billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev, Butina should have no trouble paying her lawyer bills. But we learned this week that Nikolaev, the South Dakota EB-5-connected rail magnate, seems to have been making Russian dupage of American ammosexuals a family affair. His wife Svetlana Nikolaeva met with NRA members in Moscow during the 2016 campaign:
Senior members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) met the wife of the Russian billionaire who allegedly gave financial support to a woman accused of being a secret agent for Moscow in the US.
The NRA members met Svetlana Nikolaeva, who is the head of a gun company that supplies sniper rifles to the Russian military and intelligence services, during a trip to Moscow during the 2016 election campaign [Jon Swaine, “Maria Butina: Ties Emerge Between NRA, Alleged Spy and Russian Billionaire,” UK Guardian, 2018.07.26].
Nikolaeva is another model Russian to make American gun nuts lose their senses. She’s a champion shooter who missed out on winning a 2012 U.S. national shooting prize by wearing her gun belt too low over her miniskirt:
Accuracy, Power and Speed are measured to determine match winners and crown our National Champions. However, the Ladies Production title was determined not by points scored or time accrued, but by inches, specifically the inches below the waist that Svetlana Nikolaeva was wearing her belt.
Wearing a mini-skirt, Svetlana had positioned her belt in accordance with the IPSC rule-set that permits women competitors to wear the holster at the widest point of their hips, allowing them more convenient access to guns and magazines. But under USPSA rules the belt must be worn at ‘waist’ level in both Production and Single Stack Divisions.
Her unfamiliarity with this rule cost Svetlana the High Overall Lady award at the 2012 back to back Handgun Nationals. None of the other women shooting on the squad noticed the problem and neither did some of the RO’s, otherwise it could have been corrected before the first stage [“2012 USPSA Nationals,” LiveShots.net, 2012, retrieved 2018.07.28].
The gun company Svetlana Nikolaeva runs is Orsis, started in 2010 as the first privately owned small arms manufacturer in Russia. Orsis makes the T-5000, a sniper rifle the U.S. Army says is popping up in Iraq and Ukraine and could outgun American soldiers. NRA media star David Clarke enjoyed holding this weapon during his trip to Orsis headquarters in Moscow with other NRA members to see Nikolaeva in December 2015:
Vladimir Putin really likes Nikolaeva’s T-5000. We don’t have bare-chested pictures of Putin and the new bang-bang yet, but the Russian government ordered T-5000s with over 20o modifications to be put into service three years early for the Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to Putin’s KGB), FSO, and Russian National Guard. The UK Guardian reports that Nikolaeva’s lieutenant at Orsis, Vladimir Zorbin, is a former FSB official.
Svetlana Nikolaeva enjoyed the December 2015 visit from David Clarke and fellow NRA poobahs so much that her company posted a promotional video about it (and it’s still up, as if the Russians want us to know about the NRA’s cahootsification, which is a much more enjoyable word than collusion). Nikolaeva didn’t give the NRA visitors sniper rifles to take home, but she did give them all ooh-aah commemorative Orsis watches (2:35), which beat the pants off the cheap baseball cap the NRA delegation gave Nikolaeva (0:59):
Svetlana Nikolaeva is in the blue blouse. And hey, at 0:30, who’s that Nikolaeva walks by in the conference room?
Right there in the thick of things, our Red Fox, Maria Butina, watching gun manufacturer Svetlana Nikolaeva, wife of Butina’s financial backer Konstantin Nikolaev, help NRA leaders learn to love Mother Russia.
- If you like guns, I don’t think you’ll create any additional national security risk by checking out the Orsis 2017 catalog, English edition.
- Meanwhile, last year, Nikolaeva was shopping for Saudi buyers:
- Steven Seagal pitches Orsis’s rifles, so they must be good.
Свежие новости 20:38 Московское время/Update 20:38 Moscow Time: Butina’s friends back home encourage her supporters to write her letters at her new D.C. address, in care of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections:
Maria Butina, DCDC Number 364794
Correctional Treatment Facility
1901 E St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Whoever is posting to Butina’s Russian-language VK account on her behalf says a letter from Russia to Butina’s jail will cost about 50 rubles, or about 80 cents. Butina’s social media team have also posted her courtroom sketch:
…and an aerial view of, apparently, the D.C. prison where she awaits a September hearing:
Hey, wait a minute: I’ve watched enough 1960s Mission: Impossible to know what we use aerial views of a heavily secured facility for. Of course, I don’t see any Xs marking Maria’s spot on that photo… perhaps because the Russians posted a photo of the wrong facility. The photo above shows the D.C. Central Detention Facility, which houses only male prisoners. D.C. DOC detains females at the Correctional Treatment Facility just to the southeast, a seemingly more pregnable building flanked west and south by the Congressional Cemetery and closer to a waiting getaway speedboat on the Anacostia River (good grief—the Red Fox spy novel writes itself).
Butina’s VK correspondent also reposts a Facebook message from the Russian Embassy in America which reports that Russian embassy staff visited the jail Thursday and found Butina feeling “fine, with no complaints.”
This Russian Embassy Facebook post says, “At our request, she was given a second blanket.” The post further reports that Butina has access to television in a common room (but what about a computer so she can read Dakota Free Press? Put in that request, Russian embassy!) but isn’t being allowed to go for walks outside as prison rules supposedly allow. Butina is also under “inconvenient” round-the-clock surveillance—”at night they switch on the lights every 15 minutes”—and there are problems with the food. (Wait: I thought they said Butina had no complaints—жалоб нет.)
Butina will soon be allowed telephone calls (podcast? podcast!?!). She asked the embassy staff to say to her parents for her and said that she’s determined to prove her innocence. She expressed the opinion (and I invite alternate translations) that, “ее преследуют за политические взгляды и «не тот цвет волос»“—“they are prosecuting her for political views and ‘the wrong hair color.'”
Hair color—that’s a coded reference to her spy name! Red Fox is still on the hunt! Find her sleeper cells!
The Russian Embassy says its next prison visit with Butina is set for Thursday, August 2