Russian Public Diplomacy Advocate Charged With Acting As Agent of Russian Federation in the United States

Russian Public Diplomacy Advocate Charged With Acting As Agent of Russian Federation in the United States

            WASHINGTON – A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging Russian national Natalia Burlinova with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation in the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.

            The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves, Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division Matthew G. Olsen, and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office James A. Tarasca.

            “The defendant is accused of subverting our foreign agent notification laws in order to promote Russian national interests here in the United States, concealing from the public that her recruitment efforts were funded by a Russian security service,” said U.S. Attorney Graves.  “We will continue to expose these serious crimes and hold all who perpetrate them accountable.”

            “The defendant is accused of exploiting academic and research institutions’ commitment to the free exchange of ideas in order to promote Russian interests,” said Special Agent in Charge Tarasca. “The FBI will continue to prioritize counterintelligence because of the importance of protecting our nation’s vital secrets, and we will work with our partners to investigate and stop individuals who hide their work for foreign governments.”

            According to the affidavit in support of criminal complaint, Burlinova recruited U.S. citizens from academic and research institutions to travel to Russia in order to participate in a public diplomacy program called Meeting Russia.  The program was operated by a Russian organization called PICREADI that was funded by the Russian government and devoted to Russian national interests.  Burlinova’s co-conspirator was employed by the Russian Federal Security Service (“FSB”), Russia’s principal security service with counterintelligence and surveillance responsibilities.  The FSB Officer provided funding and other support for Burlinova’s foreign recruitment and her efforts to advance Russian interests in the United States.

            The affidavit in support of criminal complaint states that Burlinova provided extensive information to the FSB Officer about the U.S. citizens that were recruited to attend her programs, including resumes, passport information, photographs, and analysis of their views towards Russia.  Burlinova informed the FSB Officer about particular U.S. citizens who, in Burlinova’s view, had expressed positive attitudes towards Russia and were prepared to continue to collaborate.  The FSB Officer used the information to prepare security service reports.  During a recruitment trip to the United States in fall 2018, Burlinova met with U.S. citizens at various universities and research institutions and provided to photographs of her meetings to the FSB Officer.  Burlinova never notified the Attorney General of these efforts or otherwise disclosed to the public that her recruitment efforts were funded by a Russian security service.

            Burlinova was sanctioned by the Department of the Treasury on July 29, 2022.

            The factual allegations in a criminal complaint are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The defendant faces up to ten years of imprisonment if convicted.

            The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Detroit Field Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Friedman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney Emma D. Ellenrieder of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. 

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