Maria Butina, a Russian gun-rights activist who pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered Russian agent, has broken her silence to deny she’s a spy.

“Truth is my best defender here,” Butina told author James Bamford for The New Republic in clips that were shared with ABC News and CNN. If she was really a spy, she said, she would have kept her private life secret.

“I would be invisible Russian spy,” she said. “You would never see me in public. I mean, I would be the most unseen person on Earth.”

Butina, who became enmeshed in Republican politics during the 2016 election, was closely associated with the National Rifle Association and sought to establish communications between Russian officials and “Americans having power and influence over US politics,” prosecutors alleged.

Bamford writes in The New Republic that the case was “extremely flimsy and appears to have been driven largely by a desire for publicity.” Prosecutors, he pointed out, dropped the explosive claim that she used sex as a bargaining chip.

Butina, in interviews that took place both before and after her July arrest, described the personal toll.

“It’s just so much pain for the family,” she said. “Me being called a whore, it’s very hard.”

Prosecutors say Butina updated Russian politician Alexander Porfiryevich Torshin on her activities in the U.S. Former intelligence officers told CNN she may have been cultivated to traffic in sensitive information, even if she wasn’t on a payroll.

The New Republic features an interview with Russian spy Maria Butina. The New Republic The New Republic features an interview with Russian spy Maria Butina. Download

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