To the American government, Maria Butina worked “covertly” inside the United States to promote the Russian government. Interested in Russia Investigation? Add Russia Investigation as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Russia Investigation news, video, and analysis from ABC News. But at American University, her graduate school classmates said she openly and proudly expressed her support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and talked about at least some ties to the Kremlin. And, Butina’s former classmates say, they were shocked to learn that the FBI arrested the studious young woman they had known in class and on campus. “There’s no way that could be the case. There’s no way that could happen,” Sierra Hicks, who told ABC News she attended the university with Butina, remembered thinking when she saw news of Butina’s arrest. Russian Federation/Handout via Reuters Maria Butina, right, attends a meeting of a group of experts, affiliated to the Russian government, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on July 17, 2018. ABC News spoke to several people who say they regularly came into contact with Butina, 29, while she seemingly lived a regular graduate student’s life in the nation’s capital, studying international relations and looking for her next career move. Their description of her time in Washington offers a more complete picture of Butina: She was not the unnoticed college student hiding her foreign loyalties from everyone around her. “It was definitely kind of in-your-face that was where her allegiance was,” Hicks said of Butina’s pro-Russia and pro-Putin views. Those who came acro
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