Photo: AP

Before Maria Butina became notorious as an alleged Russian spy and mistress of Republican operative Paul Erickson, she was just a college student who really, really loved Russia, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

She would buy friends rounds of vodka at Russia House, the Dupont Circle restaurant popular with the Russian diplomatic set, sometimes challenging male friends to down horseradish-infused shots. She bragged to classmates that she had worked for the Russian government. [...]

In November 2016, just three months after arriving, she hosted a “Stars and Tsars”-themed costume party at Cafe Deluxe, a restaurant in Cleveland Park, to celebrate her birthday

Erickson was there, dressed as the Russian mystic Rasputin, while Butina went as Empress Alexandra, the wife of the last emperor of Russia, as the Daily Beast first reported in February 2017. One person who attended the party said there was a giant glass bottle shaped like a Kalashnikov rifle. Guests poured shots of vodka from the barrel of the glass gun.

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Sounds like fun!

But when Butina wasn’t cosplaying as Alison Brie’s Zoya the Destroyer character from Glow, she was engaging in another modern day Russian pastime: getting horny about President Vladimir Putin. According to friends, Butina had a cell phone case featuring the famous photo of Putin shirtless on a horse.

It seems that Butina did everything to alert people to her presence other than run around screaming “I’M A RUSSIAN SPY!” Even students at American University warned the school that she could have ties to the Kremlin, though they didn’t pursue any action against her. Yet Erickson seemingly never suspected a thing. Either he’s really dumb, or just didn’t care that his girlfriend was a Russian spy stereotype—either way, not a great look for an operative from a party defending themselves from allegations of collusion with Putin’s regime.

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