Butina, convicted in U.S. of being Russian agent, eyes parliament seat

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FILE PHOTO: Convicted Russian agent Butina, who was deported after U.S. jail release, arrives in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Maria Butina, who was jailed in the United States after admitting to working as a Russian agent, said on Wednesday she had applied to take part in primaries for Russia's ruling party to run for a parliamentary seat.

Butina, now 32, pleaded guilty in December 2018 to infiltrating a U.S. gun rights group and influencing conservative activists and Republicans.

Moscow said the charges were ridiculous and she had been forced to confess. She was deported back to Russia in October 2019 after serving most of her 18-month sentence, and welcomed home with pomp.

"Today I submitted documents to take part in United Russia's primaries, which will determine the party's candidates for the State Duma from the Kirov region," Butina wrote on Wednesday on messaging service Telegram. The election to the Duma, Russia's lower house, is scheduled for September.

Since returning to Russia, Butina has hosted a show on state funded RT television that mocks the opposition. Earlier this month, she visited then-hunger striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in prison, and argued with him on camera about the conditions of his detention.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Peter Graff)