Orthodoxy, American Politics and Twerking

Religion Unplugged’s former executive editor Paul Glader reported a three-episode narrative podcast for the Sony Entertainment Media show “Infamous” about a Republican operative named Paul Erickson who led a colorful life that included advising a presidential candidate, making a Hollywood movie and dating an alleged Russian spy named Maria Butina.

Upon hearing the podcast, Butina reached out to Glader and agreed to an interview to share her perspective on her now ex-boyfriend. After pleading guilty for failing to register as a foreign agent, Butina was deported to Russia in 2019.

Since then, she has hosted programs on Russian news outlet RT and won a seat in the Russian parliament, known as the Duma. She spoke about religion throughout the interview.

READ: How Religion Played A Role In The Life Of A Convicted Fraudster Pardoned By Trump

Religion Unplugged emailed Erickson a list of questions inviting responses to the numerous issues raised by Butina in this interview. He did not respond to our request for comment.

The audio version of this interview will be posted in full as part of a future Religion Unplugged podcast. A shorter version will appear on “Infamous.”

This version of the interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Paul Glader: Hello. Can you hear me?

Maria Butina: Hey.

Glader: Hey. How’s it going?

Butina: It’s nice to see you.

Glader: Yeah, you too. It’s amazing how technology can bridge a lot of geographic divides, let’s say. Right.

Butina: Unbelievable. Actually, I wanted to thank you for the podcast.

Glader: You’re welcome.

Butina: You are the only person who actually saw the truth about Paul [Erickson] because, well, there are no KGB people in blue suits… I don’t talk to him because of the different reason. And because he defrauded my family and while I was in prison, that’s the worst part. So you are the only person who actually saw his personality because he’s going everywhere and saying the bullshit that, you know, I don’t talk to him because somebody doesn’t let me.

No. He lied to me. I was in solitary and he did horrible things. And the FBI never even questioned me on his case because it was so horrible. Wow… So your podcast is very good. It sets up the truth.

Glader: OK.

Butina: Thank you so much just for doing that.

Glader: You’re welcome. I definitely wanna hear all that you have to say. … So I was glad to hear from you when the podcast came out. And maybe you could start just by telling me a little bit about, you know, why you reached out and what your thought process was then?

Butina: Well, I heard the first episode of the podcast series and… it brought me to the idea… that you might be the person who actually tries to find the truth… in the story of Paul. Uh, so I saw that there is a chance. To actually set up what had happened during those days in regard to Paul’s case.

Well, I used to talk about my case and politics and all this stuff, uh, but I’ve never talked about what happened to Paul, uh, for several reasons. Uh, first of all, for now, it’s hard to believe for me that almost four years, um, passed by since my return to Russia. But it still hurts. And you know, it’s one thing when you get into trouble because of political issues, but it’s a different thing when a person… you love, a person you’re about to get married with, a person who knows your parents and is so nice, turns out to be a monster.

And so I cannot still process the two people I know. The person I knew during my five years of dating him, and the person who lied to me when I was in prison, in fact, we talked overnight. I was in solitary confinement so I was only, for four months, I was only let out from myself during the night. I would call him. So my parents were desperately trying to find money to pay for my attorney… so they had little money. Wow. You might laugh at that but we found five thousand U.S. dollars. That was everything we had

Glader: 5,000?

Butina: Yeah, 5,000. That’s all… My family, well, we consider not to be a poor, poor family in Russia, but we’re kind of OK. We do OK. Uh, my father, he had a little business. He is a small businessman. He sold everything to buy a house and they still live in a village.

So my mom, she retired and um, they have our grandmother living with them, so it puts certain obligations, medical and stuff… In the rules of my family … I’m from a teachers family, like we all teachers. I’m a teacher too. So if you owe people money, you pay them… That’s a rule for my family. We would never do like… some cheating business. That’s the standard… That’s all. So they had this money and they were very much afraid that Bob Driscoll [her defense attorney]… He’s a noble man. He and Alfred Carry, they’re the two dear people in my life. And I will always tell this on Russian TV and on American TV because these people did everything they could … in the circumstances they had. That’s all. So my parents had this $5,000… So they put it on my credit card. I had a credit card, and of course, as you might have guessed, all my possessions were left with Paul… So they put this little money, and of course Paul, knew from me the little pin code on my card. So they put the money there and, listen, he took all of them. He spent them on flights, on car rental. He actually used my card because all his credit cards were blocked because of his FBI case… Well, listen, there was money for my defense. I am his girlfriend! I am in jail! I’m in solitary confinement facing 15 years! And with no question asked! He didn’t ask me; my parents. He just takes this money!

Glader: Wow!

Butina: Wait! It gets worse. So I didn’t know all of that. And of course, nobody except me can check the bills. My parents cannot do it. They don’t have the, you know, the rights to do it because I am the person who’s supposed to do it. And the bank is in Russia. So nobody knew it so well. He told my parents that all this money he gives to the lawyers. Mm-hmm. Well, I asked my lawyers like, did you get some money? And they said, no. Well, it put me at certain suspicious, well, what’s going on?

So then my lawyers had to have the printout from my banking account to show there was no money from Russia secretly going to the NRA into the Trump campaign and all this stuff… And of course, I call Paul and I say, well, could you please send this through Paul? My parents don’t speak English, my sister barely does. So she was the communicator to Paul. And so to make a long story short, we asked Paul to help us to get a special paper from me, from prison through a consulate to get the bill from the check from the bank. So, Paul had to deliver this paper, this piece of paper with a printout to my lawyers.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: That was an essential piece of my defense, an essential piece. And then the week goes by and I ask Paul via the phone… like, could you please take the piece of paper … and give it to my lawyers? So the judge could see that I have no money. Two weeks go by. A month goes by and he just cannot take the piece of paper.

And then it puts me to the second level of suspiciousness. It’s like, well, what’s going on? Well, eventually my sister contacted my lawyer and she delivered this piece of paper to the lawyer and Bob brought it to me and I see all the payments that have been made from my credit card. Well, I had a limit on the credit card. He [Erickson] took them all. They were like, OK, the limit was, I dunno, $10,000 U.S. bucks. That’s the limit. Like when you go and you owe to the bank after that, and the interest is huge. It’s about 20%.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: And I had to pay them. So he took all this money, everything, the money for my defense, and he never, ever gave that piece of paper the essential piece of weapons to the judge, right?

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: Well, I view [this as] betrayal. Well, let me bring you back. So what did I say to Paul? Well, I asked him one thing when we talked. When I was back to Russia, we talked one time and I said, “please just tell me the truth.” Because my sister was that person who was to pay everything he spent working as a salesperson. She has a great college degree, but she stopped everything. She delayed her marriage. She was just working to pay the interest, to pay back for the money he [Erickson] spent on himself. He was lying to me saying he pays my bills in their prison and everything. It wasn’t him. It was my family. They were scared to tell me the truth until I saw the paper.

Glader: OK. Wow!

Butina: So, yeah, it’s a lot. The FBI knew that. So they asked me whether or not we want to sue him and I said, “no.” I don’t want just to see him. So when I was back, we talked one time and I asked him one thing. I said, “Paul, just don’t lie to me. Just tell me the truth one time.”

Glader: Can you tell me at what point that you had the conversation?

Butina: Well… look, we had conversations all over my imprisonment and I didn’t ask him anything. I was afraid that he makes up stuff and goes after me and you know something because he has been a person of so many lies. So we decided with my parents that we will not bring all of that, no scandal, nothing like that until my release. Okay. And then we were gonna talk about relationships? Not at that moment. I was not in the position to discuss relationships. I was facing 15 years.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: It was no joke.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: Also, in solitary confinement. So it’s not very nice, you know, when you are 22 hours in a single cell. Yeah. Anyway, so, and I’m back and asking him this question, I said, “Paul, I saw the documents, tell me the truth.” Look, my hands are still shaking. Because… I said, “I don’t believe you… If you just tell me the truth, we’re gonna be OK. We’re gonna talk and everything will be fine. I didn’t lie. I just said, just tell me. I need to know. What happened then?”

And he made up some stuff saying like, “oh yeah, you know, um?” I said, “who paid those bills? Who did that?” He said, “Well, you know, it wasn’t me.” And he was trying to kind of lie again.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: I can’t do it.

Glader: But this, but this point, was he in prison in Duluth or did you speak?

Butina: No, not yet. Not yet. Not yet. He got into prison, I guess, a year after or something.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: Well, he did worse. Wait, so just before he was pardoned, I saw his case. Look at the documents of his case. Yeah. Yeah. So when he pled guilty, here’s what, what he puts in the guilty plea. He had a lot of charges… But he picked very specific ones. In one of the charges, there is a person with the initial, “MB.” It’s Maria Butina. It’s me… Yeah. That happened. He took all the money from me he owes to the Russian bank. Well, actually it was me who owes to the bank who paid all the bills. And so now who knows? And then he gets pardoned… But again, even the FBI agents who were prosecuting my case had never questioned me that I was a part of all the schemes he has done… I was stupid and I was naive.

Glader: Mm-hmm.

Butina: And instead of being in love as a person who, well I know how the FBI is trying to portray me and all this stuff, I was a person in love believing in everything what he says. He’s a very nice person… He will never forget about the birthday that you have delivering these nice little things that are very cheap to buy. He’s the nicest person who would buy my parents [something] for their cat. This little, you know, cat toy. I forgot how you call this… a little ball to play and all this little stuff. My parents loved him because he’s so nice. Yeah. Being an American, he’s nice… There was one occasion we were in his mother’s house.

Glader: This is in Vermilion, South Dakota, right?

Butina: Yeah, yeah. In Vermilion… she passed away. Unfortunately. Claire was a very good woman. Very honorable.. Very nice. And, uh, one time we were in his house and his sister was living with, uh, his mom in the basement. One time I heard a part of the conversation accidentally because I was picking up some stuff. Now I remember that… now, after everything, I see the whole picture. And he was talking to his sister and she was asking him whether or not he’s going to pay back to his relatives some money… I didn’t even, you know, put two and two together at that moment. I thought that my English is not very well, and I didn’t get something. I never ask him because he’s older than me.

And you know, in a Russian tradition, you kind of don’t question the man typically. Mm-hmm. So you either believe the person or you don’t. That’s all. Yeah. That’s, you know, my standard. Yeah. So, I never questioned that. And then when I saw his case that he was taking all this little money from, as he used to say, “from the little people.”

Look … I don’t divide people to “little people and big people.” And also I had a huge issue with him… almost a scandal with him when I was in prison because I was surrounded after the solitary confinement. I was a GP, general population… And all the people around me were blacks. And listen, they saved me. I didn’t have any money. They gave me food. They gave me warm clothes because I didn’t have any. I wanted a drink. They gave me water. I was going crazy in solitary. They used to sit next to my door, talking to me. And when I was released from GP, general population, they taught me how to twerk. You know? Twerking.

Glader: Twerking?

Butina: Well, yeah! I know how to twerk.

Glader: OK.

Butina: It was the happiest day of my life in prison. I was not alone. I was a part of the community. And they told me the stories, how people, how people need government. Well, then I was a libertarian. They made me a socialist, like they converted me because I saw how unfortunate people could be. They just don’t have anything. They need help… Many of them were found on the streets and prison was their life saving… This is how bad it could be. And then I told this to Paul. I said, “look, listen, it goes very bad now.” And I told this to Paul. I said, “Paul, listen, we pray together.” They reminded me how to pray. Of course, they forgot being around all these white politicians around Trump… all this stuff… I was living in a different reality. And then here are the people that I used to not see on the streets even because they were unnoticeable to me. And now these are the people saving me and praying together. I still remember their hands. So I tell this to Paul and he says, “listen, that’s horrible.” And he says, “look, you shall not talk to these people.” And I say, “why is that?” He says, “because you’re different.” And I say, “why? How? I’m different from these people?”

He says, “Well, it’s a little people. They’re criminals. You know, they’re not like you, not well educated and you know, you shall kind of keep separate.” Well, that pissed me off… Cause look, you can call me anything, but I do not separate people by race, by gender, by nationality. No, not like that.

Then I told him “that’s the fault of your white politicians when I got into prison.” I still believe I’m innocent… They all betrayed me. Many of them would say they’ve never seen me. Well, you know Mark Sanford, right?

Glader: Who?

Butina: Mark Sanford.

Glader: Oh yeah.

Butina: Well, I know him well, and… I watched it in the media. He used to say that he never knew me. We spent Thanksgiving together. Come on! I have pictures! We… used to get a ride on the boat together. He forgot. Well, of course we didn’t have any relationships because it was a family Thanksgiving dinner, but still.

So all these guys who used to be my friends ended up to be traitors and all those blacks who never knew me, never judged me… They helped me… That’s why I tell you the story, so you understand the complexity of the personality of the man I stupidly dated…That’s, that’s a piece, but an essential piece of the picture.

Glader: Could you go back and describe when you first met Paul? As I recall, he had come with the delegation from the NRA to Russia? What was that first meeting like?

Butina: Yeah. So I had a group, it still exists. It’s called “The Right to Bear Arms.” It’s a Russian version of the NRA. So it’s a Russian group defending gun rights. Uh, so we had the second annual meeting. And I invited people from all over the world, including the United States. So David Keene, who used to be a good friend of Mr.Torshin, you know him from my case, he used to be a Russian senator. So he invited David Keene. And David Keene had knee surgery… he couldn’t walk well. So he takes Paul with him kind of to help, to assist. And you know, they have been friends for a long time. So Paul was a communicator. He was the person who would help us with visas and all these little things for the trip. So of course I communicated to him via email and text and he was so nice. It was very helpful because it was my first time I ever invited Americans to come to Russia and there were plenty of issues like the visa and all these, you know, special papers and the invitation, all this stuff.

So he was very helpful. So when he comes, I greeted them, him and the team at the airport personally, and they were, you know, very honorable guests for us because look it goes back to the relationship in 2013 between Russia and the US were very good. So it was, well, the big event for us to greet the guests from the states who used to be an example for us because the NRA is the biggest group in the world. So their model is great. So, I see Paul at the airport. He’s smiling. He has a great and beautiful smile… He’s very nice. And, at the same night, they came only for two days because David Keene was… not very well. And so… on the first night, I invited him and David Keene to go to dinner together. And David Keene was not well, so he decided to stay in the hotel. I understand this… I have the restaurant booked. So we went together. I can give you the name of the restaurant because I don’t lie. That’s a principle of my life. I don’t lie. So we go to that restaurant and it’s nice and I’m very tired and we just start talking.

And my English was not as good as today… So we go to that place and we chat and we drink vodka and, and he’s just so nice and understandable and we talk about US Russia issues and the Cold War will never come back. And he’s very sympathetic. And I was not the girl type, you know, you can date because you are rich, let’s say, or you are from a foreign country. No, I have a great education in Russia. I had not plenty, but enough money. I was OK. [I was] very famous in Russia. I was not looking for a husband from abroad… What matters for me is the philosophy… So I was interested in the issues and he seems to be sympathetic to Russia and that’s a big surprise for me. So, uh, that night was wonderful, and next morning he flew to the states.

We did not have any relationships, neither that day, nor in a month or two, nothing like that. We were talking almost every day through text, sometimes via Skype. And this is how our relationships were developing. It’s not in the moment. So he used to ship me. Now the shipment is not allowed between the U.S. and Russia, but those days back, he would send me a nice package of cargo boots and I found it… super nice. … When I was in prison, the FBI showed me… documents that were written by Paul. So he wrote a report to the NRA headquarters describing my group and me personally, that we are… something like Native Americans that are interested in all these, you know, different funny things. So you can corrupt us easily because he believes that I will be the future leadership of Russia.

Glader: Right.

Butina: And, well, I thought we were dating. So I guess I misunderstood. But anyway, those days, everything was awesome and we decided to spend New Year’s Eve together. We flew to Israel. We actually met in Tel Aviv. That was wonderful. We took a dance class together. It was like a proper date and I’ve never had it in my life, this is how I felt in love. Then I came to the States and … we went to see the Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Yeah. Wow. That’s so cool. Oh, you should see it once in life. It’s cool.

Glader: So I grew up near there. So I’ve seen it.

Butina: It’s just nice. After that, we start dating… I was introduced to his mother and his mom is a very nice person… I was about [ready] to get married. I think he wasn’t. That was the problem… And yes, I do now feel that I was used… it’s a crap of fantasies by my boyfriend who used to brag that I have this long connection to Russia. He wanted to have a part in the Trump administration. That’s all. He wanted to be in the transition team… So he would bring me to this, all these rich events with all these politicians and businessmen. And, wait until the nice part, I learned [afterward] that after he took money from these people saying that I’m a poor woman from Siberia having no money for living. George O’Neal is one of the victims of the story. He helped me to pay for my education. Him, not Paul… So I was a pretty girl that had these pretty dresses. I was going to talk about issues between Russia and the United States. Yes. I’m stupid. And he would introduce me to people, say that he has this connection that he can use when Trump someday wants to build relationships with Russia… I feel sorry for the people he cheated on. Yes. I had no knowledge, but you know, it kind of doesn’t excuse me cuz I was part of the scheme. Yes. Without my knowledge. But they would look at me and say, oh yeah, she’s a poor woman from Siberia. She probably needs money. Well, should I tell you that I’ve never seen this money? Of course I haven’t. This is like a Ponzi scheme. He would take money from one person and give it to another person he borrowed money from. I was just a toy, I guess, or an instrument when taking money from rich people.

Glader: At what point did you realize he was doing that? Or have concerns?

Butina: Well, the FBI … one day we had a debrief. He [the agent] said that… “what I’m about to say is kind of painful.” So he brought me all these files, the report that Paul wrote to the NRA… And all our beginning of the relationships was just a plan to set up a new leadership in Russia. Well, it’s too ambitious, but it’s Paul, you know, it’s Paul. And then he [the FBI agent] brought me the documents, the printouts, all the bills, the money he took from all these people I met. And he asked me whether I know these people, this person, and this person, and this person.

And this is how I put two and two together. Well, uh, I was in solitary confinement. It was a half a year of debriefs. And at that moment I learned that the person next to me, the closest person in my life is this!?… I just don’t want to be next to this person seeing him ever. And your podcast is the first ever piece of the truth that has ever been set up in the story… He has been stealing money from people using all the means for almost 30 years…. That’s how I put two and two together. I would prefer to learn about it being free so I can process this. But after that session, the debrief session, I was brought back and I remember that day in my solitary cell, in the concrete, cold, concrete to think about it, all of that. I’m not the perfect person. Okay. Because there is another piece of the story, and if, if you follow my case, you might hear about Patrick Byrne.

Glader: Yeah.

Butina: So while [that doesn’t] make me an ideal person. I do make mistakes. And I did take up with Patrick. He [Byrne] thinks that he did that, but [it] doesn’t matter.

Glader: Well, I had several questions related to that. And this is so interesting, really about relationships. But I called one guy, we called a lot of people for the podcast, including one sort of friend of Paul who was listed as a victim. … In the conversation I had with this guy, he said, I said he, well, this guy said, uh, well Maria and him weren’t really dating. Paul’s not exclusive with anybody. Which made me wonder like, were you guys exclusive or were you both dating other people in an open relationship? What was the dynamic of that?

Butina: That’s an awesome question because I questioned Paul too about it. Look, we would go, well, I’m his girlfriend and I’m very public about it. He knows my parents. I know his mom. So in my opinion, we are about to get married. So we would go to a public event and I would want to be next to him.

But he never introduced me as his girlfriend. Hmm. I talked to him about it. I said, “Well, Paul, maybe we shall be more public.” He says, “well, you know, it’s in politics.” You shall not do that. He found a lot of reasons why. Now I know why. He couldn’t take money from people saying, I’m alone. If he would say he’s my boyfriend, then it puts obligations on him. But if he kinda, you know, shows we are kind of distant, not dating, that sets up a story that I’m a free person and kind of deal with my issues myself. That’s the story. But at those days, I thought, well, “Who knows, maybe it’s, well, it’s a higher society, maybe people shall not, you know, show how close they are.”

There was an interesting lecture that Patrick was given because his friend, um, his name is Ralph Benko… said that Patrick might donate some money to their Afghanistan villages. Here it comes. Right. So Paul was supposedly, uh, building all these villages in Afghanistan where he supposedly fought during some years. Well, all the lies that he told me. He had never been on the Oscars committee. That’s what he told me too, that he was… Um, I never questioned too much.

So he says that, look, it’s a great plan. I need this money, and this guy [Byrne] might be one of the sponsors. And then what? So he needs to go to the lecture. I said, great. He says, well, how about you go with me? You see how it goes? I say, well, sure why not? And I listen to Patrick and I realized that, um, I call him the man who sees the future because Patrick is very smart, but he’s quite strange. … He is a brilliant economist. Putting aside all what he has said and done after that in politics and all of that, he’s an amazing man in terms of his mind. He thinks not the way you and me and many people do. … He would say he’s autistic. I don’t know. I’ve never seen his, you know, medical report. But he’s a genius. He can really memorize the … playing cards. He starts talking about crypto. … So I… decide to talk to Patrick, and Paul goes with me in the line… This is funny. So we stay in the line and I was just waiting to ask Patrick if he wants to come to Russia someday to deliver his speech on cryptocurrencies, because he’s one of the pioneers. So I stay there and this is my turn and Paul’s turn. Paul starts saying something to Patrick about Afghanistan and all these issues. And Patrick is like, “not interested.” Like, “go away. Like, don’t bother me, please.” Patrick is not a polite person, OK?

He, if he likes someone, he tells you this. If he doesn’t like you, well he’s not gonna talk to you at all. That’s it. And then after [he dismisses] Paul, he talks to me and hears my accent. He says, “Well, aren’t you from Russia?” I said, “well, yeah.” And we start talking. And he says, “Well, how about you come to have a lunch with me?”

And I thought, “Wow, that’s a great idea. Probably he’s gonna, uh, have all these people from the crypto world and we can talk.”

He says, “Well, how about I will send you, like my assistant is gonna send you all the information.”

I come back with Paul to our hotel room. We flew together. We shared a hotel room. Surely we are boyfriend and girlfriend. I think so. So we come to a room and I say, “Um, I got a message from Patrick’s assistant where he says that I should come to his hotel room.” Well, I wasn’t excited about it.

However, I know that sometimes people would rent a suite. So where they would go and have a big table. So, but it was still kind of … scary and plus I was dating a different person and I say to Paul, “Listen, are you sure it’s safe? Like, I don’t know this guy.” He’s like a multi-billionaire and he, well, sometimes they are crazy and they might act strange. And he [Erickson] says, “No, no, no, no, no. You should go. You should go.”

And it pissed me off. Yes. Because you don’t send your girlfriend to some man to have a lunch… in his room. In his hotel room! It’s weird… I dunno how Americans do, but in Russia it would be considered weird. Yeah. I told that to Paul and he says, “No, no, you should go because you shall also ask him about the Afghanistan [project].” Yeah, it pissed me off… I went to the meeting only because I was pissed off as a matter of protest, as a woman who has been insulted at that moment, deeply insulted in my soul.

“So you want me to go there? Because you need to take some money? Paul convinced me this is for the charity project. You should understand that this is for, for the kids in Afghanistan. And of course as every Russian, I have a certain piece of guilt for Afghanistan because the Soviets were in Afghanistan.

And of course we all have this, you know, little complex here. So I’d say, Ok. But it’s still, you know, something in my soul is wrong. So I go to the hotel room and the room is just, you know, the door is not completely locked.

And I pushed the door and it’s a hotel room, and I see Patrick topless and… in the boxers and yeah, I was scared. I was scared. Alright. I was almost ready to run. And he says, “Wait, stop! Maria, stop! Uh, and his bed is not made and so it’s a whole mess. And he was like, “Don’t leave, stop! It’s not what you think. I just woke up. It’s just lunchtime.”

And he got dressed and when he says he acted as a gentleman, it’s 100% true. So he got dressed, he, you know, made his bed and there was really a lunch table set up for two people on the other side. And, yes, we talked about Plato because I was so excited about the philosophy. And the conversation went very much through the Afghanistan topic and not even to crypto. He was interested in Russian history because he knows a lot, as a very well-educated man… I wasn’t in love, but I was interested in the man because he’s very intellectual, he’s very polite, he’s very nice and he respects my country.

I respect yours and I still do as well as I respect every American today. Because you have a lot of great people. Many of them defended me… So we [Patrick and I] talk about all these issues and he says… how about we take a private plane and go to Utah? And it’s like, “No, we are not taking a private plane to go to Utah because it’s just so funny for you. Um, I just go back to my hotel room and go to the conference tomorrow and if you think that I’m this type of girl you can just have a private jet with, good luck with that. Take somebody else.”

I showed that I’m not interested… Because it was wrong, because I don’t act this way. So, anyway… my relationship with Patrick developed from a very intellectual standpoint.

And, um, one day, yeah, we had a date and one day it ended up, we had relationships. Not a long time, but, well, I was inspired by him. I was charmed by him. Mm-hmm. Because, he’s not like everybody else. He’s the man who sees the future… and I was pissed off because Paul knew that I was texting with Patrick and, um, I would say like sometimes you want to make men jealous. OK? Women do that. We never say we do that, but we do this. OK? And I would ask him, like saying, “Look, Patrick invited me to have a dinner in Washington. Are you OK with that?” And he says, “Yes, you should go, talk about Afghanistan.” So I think it formed in me a certain permission for myself to cheat. Because we became distant. You know, I didn’t feel that I am loved. Was it a revenge? … I was honest with Patrick. I said I was dating Paul.

The relationship with Patrick didn’t last maybe a month or two. And then I remember the day, um, one time I told Patrick that, “look … it’s gonna stop. I just, I, I cannot do it. I just cannot date two people at the same time. I should be honest.” And Patrick didn’t see a problem. I did because I cannot live with this. Paul was so nice with my parents and our relationships over time… So that was it. In my relationships with Patrick, I didn’t know he was an informant for the CIA and FBI… I didn’t know any of that. For me, he was just a man who sees the future and, you know, a romance. That should have never happened… because … You can’t cheat. That’s bad. And, again, I’m not the nicest person. Look, I’m a Christian and we all have sins and I regret what I have done, but it did happen. The confession is between me and God, you know? … It’s not about the FBI.

Glader: Erickson never asked like, “hey, when would you come back from seeing Patrick?”

Butina: Can you imagine that? No… So he believed that Patrick eventually will give me money and sponsor some of my trips for the conferences. He was just, you know, trying to find another sponsor he could take money from.

Glader: Mm-hmm. So at some point, you and Paul were thinking of moving to South Dakota, right?

Butina: Yeah. Yeah.

Glader: What was it like, you know, visiting and planning to live in South Dakota, like the apartment building and Sioux Falls, I guess, was the location you were moving to, is that right?

Butina: Yeah. Uh, the lady talking there in your podcast, I know her. She used to come to the gym because I’m working out every morning for the last, you know, maybe 15 years. I’m a runner. So I run on the elliptical and she was nice. She used to come and turn on the TV and sometimes we would, you know, chat and they had a little swimming pool there where I would swim sometimes. And look, I’ve never dreamed about having, you know, a political super brilliant future to be a superstar. Actually. I went to the states to get an education, which I got, from the American University. And, I got a job. I got an approval to get the Visa extension. … OPT program. So Professor Clark from the business school … gave me a chance to stay [working] with him because I was working for a year already as his assistant and for the business school… I used to do for him little tasks related to cybersecurity, believe it or not. Because I was very excited to pick a focus of my education and take the courses on cybersecurity… Anyway, so I got a job but over the summer, I couldn’t work remotely and it was too expensive for me to rent an apartment in D.C. … So we decided to move to South Dakota because, uh, well, I thought Paul owned the apartment. Well, he didn’t. I didn’t know that. Well, here’s how I learned that. At some point when his case at the FBI got started … like actually a long time before mine, and the first search was made in his house. But he actually told me that he has some issues with the FBI. It was like maybe three months or a half a year before my case… And he comes to me and he says, well, he needs a trustee. He needs somebody to, you know, kind of to take care of his things because all the charges are lying. … And I believed, because he’s nice. I mean, I didn’t know that it was a real case, the fraud case. And he says, well, that’s a mistake. But maybe I can get into trouble. So I need a trustee and something. Look, God saved me then. He gave me a paper that I should have signed to be his trustee. And I look at the paper and I see that he has nothing. Hmm. Well, he told me … he invested all his money in different hedge funds. I have no knowledge about hedge funds. OK. … So, he said, well, here are certain possessions that if, if I need you to take care of all of that, just, you know, sign this paper. Of course, by that time, I was introduced to Bob Driscoll, to my attorney. … And I told him, by the way, Paul giving me this paper, should I sign it or not? I remember Bob Driscoll on the phone saying, “NO! You shall never do that!” It’s like, why? He says, “Well, that’s not your case.” OK … I never signed it. So if I would [have], I would have faced an additional seven years for conspiracy, I guess…

Anyway, so, um, yeah, we were about to move to Sioux Falls and um, actually in Sioux Falls we would sometimes go to a jewelry store, you know … when they could buy engagement rings as well. Mm-hmm. So I was thinking about getting married. Um, well, I think Paul wasn’t thinking about getting married, but I can see his soul. I don’t know what he was thinking about. I believe he was sincere. I mean, he was sincere, but he’s just sincere in everything he does. And when he defrauds people, he’s sincere too. He really believes, actually. I think he really believes he will pay back someday… I’ve been in North Dakota in the Bakken Region, you are talking about the oil fields. I was on those trips. So he showed me the land. That’s why I loved your podcast so much.

Glader: Oh, he drove you up to North Dakota?

Butina: Oh yeah. In fact, he introduced me to the people. They were Ukrainians everybody called the Russians… who were living in Williston [North Dakota]. … And he asked me to talk to them in Russian so he can buy more land from them… He used to say that he has senior living facilities. And I thought, “How nice.” And I would say, “Paul, how about we go together?” And he would tell all these details about what uses are key for the senior living facilities, how all these little ladies, they’re so sweet and they’re happy in these facilities. And I’ve never seen a picture because I just believed. I dunno, it’s like you know when somebody’s using hypnosis, you know? … [It’s] what magicians use. And, I didn’t ask. So he would go on a business trip to Minnesota saying, like, “Oh, I need to meet the board. And, you know, I trust them. They run my business.” And I was like, OK.

I know Abramoff. Of course he introduced me to Jack… My attorney brought me an article and showed me it was a scam. He [Erickson] and Abramoff took money from poor, retired people. So all of this just piles up.

Glader: Yeah. I’m just kinda curious, like the day-to-day life of Paul. You had a view of Ericsson’s life for 24 hours sometimes where a lot of us would only see him at an event and he would, you know, presenting himself as a business person and a political person. What was he like on a day-to-day basis? You know, if you spent a week with him. Did he go eight to five and work on his pretend business?

Butina: Always. So this is how it works. So in South Dakota, in Sioux Falls, he had his own room. I would never bother a man working… well maybe it’s a Russian thing, I don’t know. But he would wake up in the morning, do his working out and breakfast, and he would stay the whole day in his office, at home, working. Or he also had a little office, you know, kind of next door across the road in Sioux Falls. He would sometimes work there. I didn’t bother him because I had my own stuff to do, especially when I was studying. It’s no joke. Meaning when he would come to visit me in Washington, DC and we would stay sometimes a month or two together, I would be in a silent section of the library. Look, I’m a straight A person and I’m not a native speaker, and the education that I got is quite hard… You got your masters, you know that if you want straight A’s, you better be in the library. All the time. There is no time for, you know, having fun and stuff. I would be there all weekend because I had to study. That’s what I do. I came there to study and I developed my education… It’s valuable for me. I’m a teacher by my first diploma in Russia… And from the teacher’s family, so here’s how it would work. If we are in Sioux Falls, he would stay all day in, you know, in his office. I would never bother him.

Well, he’s working on his computer… I don’t spy, man. OK? It’s just rude. I would never go to your suitcase and to your phone to see whether or not you’re cheating. Cuz I have a self respect. I either trust him, I don’t, or then I don’t date you. It might be too Russian, maybe too direct. I don’t know. But it’s the way I am. And I guess he just took advantage of that. And at night we would, you know, have a walk or we would have [cultural events]. He’s amazing in this sense. … He introduced me to all these American cultural things like, uh, the movies you watch. … He knows all these movies and you know. He told me he serves [as a judge] on the Oscar’s committee. He doesn’t! But he knows a lot. So … we would sit in front of the TV and he would tell me all about these American cultural things… We watched The Crown together and I still love The Crown. And The House of Cards. … There were certain series that we really liked. And of course the “Twin Peaks.” So this is how I guess it works. I had my own stuff to do and, at night, we would talk. And, you know, he didn’t very much like what I cook. This is very disappointing for me as a woman. Because I cooked some Russian stuff… And he’s not in the healthy living style. So mac and cheese is Paul’s choice. It’s not my choice… You can see it’s not my choice at all. So that kind of made me sad. Sometimes I would bake little pastries and something. He ate my pastries. God bless. For a Russian woman, it’s very important. Because I was trying to find a way to mix the culture together. He liked borscht, the Russian soup… So he would travel a couple of times to meet my parents… So stupid, I paid the way because I think it’s kind of equal… I didn’t want to have unequal relationships and I had my own money, my own salary.

Glader: So you paid for a trip to Russia?

Butina: Uh, of course, yeah. But this is before my study … because we didn’t live together before my study. … I lived in Russia. He lived in the States and we would only meet when I flew over, or he flies to Russia… And most of the time we would Skype and, you know, text, which was fine. … I never bothered about our age difference because, well, it’s all about your mind. It’s not about the age. Some people will judge me, but… it’s about the soulmate. I thought that I found a soulmate…

Glader: You know, Shirley Halleen … on the podcast, made a comment that … she didn’t see the romantic, you know, flame between the two of you.

Butina: Well, that’s her perception … most of the people who lived in the place where I lived with Paul. … They were kind of seniors … I’m traditional and old maybe, but it’s all about the way your parents rose you up… So I would never show, you know, having sex in public … it’s just not me. So having all these kisses and all this stuff? Well, I don’t judge others who do that. It’s just not my style.

Glader: So you’re saying that the, you know, that the relationship from your viewpoint with Paul was both romantic and a soul level, that it was kind of normal in some way?

Butina: Absolutely. If I were to come to the [United] States to, as this woman thinks, to find somebody who might be, you know, kind of useful for me or something, I would pick somebody else. Not the man living in South Dakota. Like really? And, uh, well, I’m quite smart. So I saw he has some connections with Washington DC but I kind of figured out they’re not the top level. Mm-hmm. So look, I had Patrick. I could have dated Patrick and, you know, left Paul instantly. So I have all the potential … I’m not the worst in terms of appearance person in the world, so I could find a man in a higher position. I didn’t want to… And of course we had ups and downs. And again, I made the mistake with Patrick. Yes, we had some, you know, period of time when couples go through troubles… That happens. It doesn’t make me a good person, but yeah, I did that. It’s not nice… I still came back and, you know, I wanted to build a relationship. I knew that he has some health issues and all this stuff. Well, he’s not 18 years old, but I stayed next to him… He had some, you know, uh, heart problems and stuff. I stayed with him. I could have left him again in an instant… If I’m a, you know, this career person trying to influence something, why would I find a person who is sick? That doesn’t make sense? … Like I would find somebody healthy and, you know, top level? I was in love.

Glader: Shifting gears a little bit, I was curious about the role of religion in your life? Because you mentioned it a couple times during our conversation that you were sort of part of the Russian Orthodox church growing up in Russia? What was it like then and in America and then now?

Butina: Uh, it quite changed for me after prison. You know … I would say there are two types of people in prison. People who find God and people who never ever wants to talk and think about God anymore. Well, I am in the first group, a person who … I lost, you know, everything.

And I was in solitary confinement, facing, as I mentioned, 15 years. And I had no hope. And when you have no hope, that’s the best time in your life. The best because then you remember, you realize that God is your hope. There is nothing else. And the person changed me. I completely changed. I was, you know, some people would say I was nice, but I wasn’t. Look, I’m baptized. Um, I used to be in Russian Orthodox Church. Uh, I’ve always been interested in different religions and I respect, again, respect all the religions. For me, it doesn’t matter who you are Muslim or Christian, Buddhist, doesn’t matter for me. You believe in God? Wonderful.

So when I was in prison … the guys from the Russian embassy, one day they saw I’m not very well and they asked whether or not I want the Russian priest to come to visit me. And I said, yeah. And that was the day or when, it was the first time in my life, I had a real confession. I was crying. I decided that I want to be a different person. And in that time, prison helps. So, and for right now, I try to be a good person. We all do. And I go to the church and I’m Russian Orthodox. In prison, in fact, I met a Muslim woman. She was very pregnant, I mean like eight months pregnant. She was kind of careful talking to me because I was trying to help her. And she says, well, you shall not help me because you’re Christian and I’m Muslim. And it ended up that I would give her food and, you know, work closest to her for her child, her future child. And she was fine with that. And then I met people, a wonderful lady that I still consider to be my second mother. She’s a Jew… Unfortunately, I learned that, uh, she passed away several months ago when I communicated to her up to the day of her release. I never betrayed the girls that were with me. I would send them little money, everything I have… And up to today, I help people in prisons. I don’t talk about this very much because it’s like you have your charity that you do and you don’t put it in public. … I don’t preach, I don’t tell you to become Russian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox or whatever. And by the way, this is one of the reasons why I want to distance myself from Paul and why I never talked about this. You, you’ve never seen the story, right? It’s an exclusive story. It’s a very Christian thing for me. I don’t want any revenge. I don’t want to go to sue him. OK? I don’t want any money back. No. I want to be distant from evil. But then I made the decision after your podcast to come out to tell the truth, because honestly, I don’t think he’s gonna stop. Hmm. I don’t think he got his lesson. Hmm. I think by being pardoned he still thinks that he did OK. He didn’t do OK… I read the statement that the judge told him, and it touched my soul … he was caught … taking all this money from his relatives and friends. … He used to say little people, this little money. They were not little… They barely, actually, could make the ends meet… I just wish that… he’s gonna stop or that bad things happen with him. Because God is just. Just repent. Regret what you have done.

Glader: You had started the conversation by launching right in about how, you know, Erickson had wronged you financially. And I remember your lawyer, Bob Driscoll, had said, uh, to us that, you know, he hadn’t been paid, it was a pro bono case cuz there was a legal fund set up to raise money for your defense. And it’s not clear what happened to that money either. Is that part of what you were referring to at the start of the call?

Butina: Well, no. Um, yes and no. Well, eventually, at the very end of the case, we were able to get some money. Actually you can ask Bob about it. We paid. But we couldn’t pay the whole thing because it was just too much. He [Bob Driscoll] has been very nice to me, so I gave him everything I could and he knows that… I felt very sorry for him because he spent a lot of time on my case, he and Alfred, and they used to come to visit me almost every day, either Bob or Alfred… So I can’t hate people. I can’t hate Americans… I understand they should have been paid. But they decided to stay with me and, you know, did what they could.

Glader: I think Driscoll was the one who told me the Russian Orthodox priest visited you regularly to pray with you or something like?

Butina: No, no, no, no, no, no. It’s not allowed every day. He registered as a volunteer and he used to come once or twice a month… Father Victor. He lives in Washington… And he would bring me a Bible and different books. … I was in solitary, so I had plenty of time to read. And that saved my mind completely. Yeah. He would come and we would talk and, um, this is how I grew up in, again, like it’s a second baptism, I guess. You see a lot of the things that were brought to my Christian life … because of the Black ladies – mostly Blacks and, you know, sometimes Latinos – look, it’s Washington, D.C. … And, um, then I got transferred to Alexandria, Virginia. Sometimes you would see a white person, but not very often.These people believe very much in God and it forms a society. I don’t know about men’s prison, but in a women’s prison, we all miss somebody. They miss their kids. I miss my parents… It’s a big, um, pain for everybody… I grew up in religion, and I learned America in a different way. America is unfortunate in terms of how they were born and where they were born, you know. And the race issue and all this stuff. But, on the other hand, this is the sincere America. You know, this is the real truth. So I’m the only person in Russia who believes that BLM is real. Well all, everybody here would say, well, you know, that cannot be true. … I saw, I heard the stories from the ladies in prison. Unfortunately, this is the truth.

Glader: So you had such a fascinating tour of American life in a way?

Butina: Yeah.

Glader: And, um, yeah, it’s kind of weird to think about. I mean, had the ball bounced different ways, you know, how your life could have gone? I’m sort of curious where you see your life going in the next 10, 20 years, if you can see that far ahead?

Butina: Look, the world is changing. I hope there will be no third World War. Uh, the World War III. Hopefully not! How I see my life now? OK. I do what I can and I kept my mission after I was back from prison. Um, you know, the fund that eventually paid some little money to Bob and, you know, to the attorneys. I kept the foundation and I put my own money there. And so now I help Russians and not just Russians who are detained, um, unjustly in prisons. Well, in fact, they help everybody because I did not know who is justly or unjustly. So if you were the Russians, so I want you to have medication that I didn’t have. I want you to be able to call to your relatives. I don’t judge people. That’s about the Christianity. It’s not my thing. And I want you to be able to not be discriminated against by the race or nationality and stuff. So this is a part of my charity work… So what’s gonna happen in 15 years? I’m a TV host and I have my show. You are always welcome if you wish to, but I know Americans, they try to, you know, stay away from Russia shows. I understand. Don’t judge… I have my own show. That’s, you know, kind of it. In terms of private life. I can tell you if you want.

Glader: Sure, why not?

Butina: Well, for right now, um, I wouldn’t say I go through issues. Well, I have some health problems of course, because spending so much time in the cold cell, as you may guess, doesn’t end very well for your health. But I’m fine coping with that… I still love men, but generally, and I still prefer to take, um, as my friend says, a sabbatical, you know, kind of a time off because I do have trust issues. Um, that’s why I have been so silent about this story for so long… And I still have trust issues with people… I don’t want to forget prison. I do want to remember, because the most valuable lessons I ever learned in my life were in prison because there you see what is real and what is a fake. And, uh, unfortunately, my love and my boyfriend was a fake. So that happens sometimes. … There is a long term phrase, “trust but verify.” … Well, in your relationships, trust and verify. Because most of the ladies in prison unfortunately end up there because of relationships. That’s who we are. Just be smarter than me. Be wise. And then you don’t get into trouble.

Glader: I was trying to think like, what would Erickson say regarding why he didn’t communicate with you in prison? And I’m guessing he would probably say, well, you know, there’s this investigation going and people would be, you know, would be listening in or whatever?

Butina: Yeah. He talked to me in prison. We talked on the phone. … He would say, “Oh, there is an investigation going. OK. We can only talk about the weather or something.” That was his plan. … We can’t talk about money.

Glader: But you still felt he left you, uh, kind of abandoned you or betrayed you when you were in prison?

Butina: Um, well, I don’t know. Everybody should judge by his own, from his own perspective. But by taking and spending money for himself that were actually for my lawyers, for my defense, it’s not very nice. So do I see it as a betrayal? I absolutely do. And that’s the most painful betrayal in my life.

Glader: Just to be clear that I understood what you said about that earlier, it was $5,000 on a credit card, but he went above and beyond that or whatever the spending limit was on the credit card?

Butina: Yep.

Glader: I think Driscoll had said that there was some other additional campaign to raise money for you? That never went to Driscoll. And so I think Driscoll wondered if Erickson had taken that as well?

Butina: We were not very successful to raise money, so everything that was paid to Bob was paid directly from some wealthy people here. One of them is the Russian deputy, my colleague actually now. He’s a wealthy guy, so he decided to pay whatever. … But we didn’t, you know, we didn’t get so much money.

Glader: And to the theme of your book and your, uh, concern for prisoners… You were a person of another country imprisoned in America. But of course you had recently you have Brittney Griner who was released from prison there in Russia. And then we have, uh, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who’s currently in prison. Um, what are your thoughts or concerns for someone where the situation’s reversed, like that?

Butina: Look, I dunno. Meaning, look, when Gershkovich is the journalist, well the case is still in process, so we can’t say what happened or will not happen because still the investigation is going. And from my point, like, look, if these people, again, this is important. I work here with the Russian version… we have our, uh, separate system. And I’m always open. My cell phone is open. If something is going on. And if relatives from Russia, from a prison in Russia would ask me how their rights are violated with something I would jump in. It’s not about my political position, it’s about my faith. So when probably you saw when I came to Navalny?

Glader: Yep. To the prison, right?

Butina: Yeah. And here’s what I told to the TV guys. I said, look, I will never lie. I’ve been in these circumstances and if I see he’s tortured, I’m gonna tell he’s tortured. Nobody pressed on me. What pissed me off there. This is why I’m so emotional in the video. Because he was talking about, you know, suffering and torturing being absolutely fine in a huge room, like laying on the couch while all the prisoners would do their chores… So you clean your own, you know, kind of bed and all this stuff around. And you do usually do it in turns. That’s what we did with girls, actually, believe it or not, using pads. Well, it’s convenient. So we put some water on and you can wash the floor. … That’s what you do. And he was trying to provoke other prisoners in the guards to do something to harm him so he can put it in the news. And that’s why you don’t see him on the video because he said he doesn’t want… part of the conversation to be released. We respect the privacy. So he didn’t give a permission. … Me being pissed off is because I saw the hell. I saw the hell of the solitary confinement. I saw the hell of the administrative segregation, all this stuff. I saw how people got into prison for nothing for years. They never get their medical. And you know, if you’re interested, I can very much talk about the American prisons because you shall not treat people this way. It’s unhumane. When I saw a girl in being a diabetic and she would pass out, like passing out all the time, she was diabetic, you know, she needed insulin. And they didn’t give her insulin… I remember sitting there and giving her this sweet, sweet cookies… so she doesn’t die on the floor. I saw the hell. And when I come there and see Navalny who said like, “look… the window is broken. That’s a torture.” That’s not a torture. I saw the tortures. I saw people being tied up to a chair. That’s torture. And that’s up to Americans to deal with the prisons. And I do believe that solitary confinement shall be banned everywhere because it’s horrible, it’s inhumane. I saw people being there for six years.

They give them drugs. … So they sleep all the time. That’s the problem. So that’s why when I came to him [Navalny], he claimed he is not well. I came there and said, “what happened?” I would help everybody. It doesn’t matter for me. You’re American, Russian, you know, from Armenia, from any other country? I’ve been in that conditions. I cannot lie because I’m afraid of one thing. I’m afraid of God. And if I ever do something that is against, you know, my belief, the God will punish me. That’s the punishment I’m very much afraid of… If I would leave Navalny in bad conditions, I could not sleep calmly.

Glader: I’ve just seen news reports. What you are saying is that if you see any prisoner, any place in solitary you don’t like to see that. You would like to see that practice, and maybe others, end?

Butina: You can’t leave people for years in solitary confinement. Even in the Bible, we were born to be in the society. I know how it hurts…

Glader: But that’s an issue you want to keep working on?

Butina: And I will…. I was lucky. OK. I am healthy, somewhat, I’m healthy. I’m fine. I met my family. Nobody died while I was in prison. God saved me. God saved me. OK. And for right now, I must help others because prison changed me. I used to be selfish and living for myself and caring about, you know, going to these old luxury events. For right now, I don’t care. I just don’t care anymore.

Glader: Any other sort of areas where you feel prison changed you and that your mission now, um, with policy or people is different?

Butina: Thank you for doing this interview. I feel better. … In my book, he [Erickson] is still, the character is still too dry. You know what I mean? It’s kind of like, um, like, like distant from me. And this [podcast] is the most sincere I’ve ever been, and I feel better. So thank you to our listeners for this podcast, because the truth eventually should come out.

Glader: Well absolutely appreciate you being part of it and talking with us and reaching out. Um, I follow you on Telegram. I’m curious about your take on the upcoming [American presidential] election? Trump? The Biden side?

Butina: Am I a fan of Trump? Absolutely not. Well, uh, I got into prison during the Trump time. OK. So I cannot be pro-Trump. Uh, can I be pro Biden, who I believe, uh, is now acting against Russia? No … I do follow American politics. … My … political views are now … really complex and … I am not perfectly at the Republican side. Also because of one more issue, when I was in prison, I got an interesting letter from the NRA, from the National Rifle Association, saying that they kicked me out. I used to be a life member of the NRA. … And then once I got arrested, they just kicked me out!? And I do have questions to the National Rifle Association… And then they kicked me out from the National Rifle Association because of what? I didn’t commit any gun crime. I paid my dues to the group. And I do believe it’s discrimination … I still don’t understand why they kicked me out. So I paid my money, I became a life member, and then I go into prison and then they kick me out!? There’s no rule right? … I’m not a big fan of the NRA anymore.

Glader: So, um, you know, what, what’s your relationship like with Alexander Torshin now? Is he still involved in politics in Russia?

Butina: Well, he retired, uh, actually during my prison time. And, um, he just, you know, we don’t communicate a lot, very much after … this thing happened. … I went through tough stuff and, um, it changed my circles that I communicate with and, um, well, uh, whatever is going on between him and me and, you know, we have different visions of what happened… So he does his own stuff. … I’ve met him at a couple of events and we talk, we’re not, we’re not super close friends now, but we’re not enemies… You know, my, my life goes and I do what I should be doing, I think, and he does his thing.

Glader: I guess one other question that listeners probably want to know is probably a lot of folks have different views on the war in Ukraine. People in your country and people in my country have different views on the war, but a different question, which is really, what do you think is the future for Russia?

Butina: It will be fine… Despite the political pressure from the west, Russia adapts very quickly… The more somebody fights against us, the stronger together we become… look at our history. Every time in the times of darkness and troubles, we as a nation always come together and fight. … That’s what happened now, meaning all these sanctions and you know, the funny part is about sanctions. We studied at school that sanctions actually are not effective. We studied at an American school, at the American University, so guys put in additional sanctions, it doesn’t work very much… It never changes regimes. So I have a question. Why politically you do that? I mean, not you, but the U.S. government? It’s not a very smart way. … So despite all the pressures … we’re gonna be fine. I just hope that the world will not go into a big conflict between Russia and NATO, because as my father says, if there is ever a nuclear war, people who are alive will be jealous of the people who are dead… I was a peace builder when I came to the U.S. Yeah. They put me in prison. … I’m a peacebuilder today. I came to the States to build peace. But they considered it in a different way.

Glader: I have many friends from Russia in the U.S. … and there’s good people that get lost in these conflicts. And I do hope the conflicts end, the wars end because it’s terrible for humanity. … Anything else that we didn’t get to talk about today that you wanted to make sure we talked about?

Butina: No, no. I think we’re fine. I think it’s, it’s, it’s gonna be an interesting story. And are you OK with the conversation?

Glader: Absolutely, 100%. In fact, you know, almost all the areas I was hoping we would talk about you, you just went there and we talked about them. So I think it was great.

Butina: Well, it was, I was having it inside and I had to talk it out and almost as a psychiatrist.

Glader: Thank you for your participation and have a great day. Take care. Bye now.

Butina: Bye-bye.

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