leged Russian agent Maria Butina faces sentencing in Washington yesterday over her open effort to build a network of high-level Republican contacts via ties to the NRA gun lobby. While prosecutors have asked for 18 months in prison for the 30-year-old Siberian redhead, she could be deported immediately, after already spending nine months in a US jail. A key variable, analysts say, could be how her case is linked to Russia’s recent arrest of American former Marine Paul Whelan on spying charges. The Justice Department alleged that although she lacks ties to Moscow’s espionage agencies, Butina was part of a broad Russian plot to infiltrate and disrupt US politics -- which included meddling in the 2016 election. But Butina argued that her five-year effort building a network with Republicans -- bringing her into contact with President Donald Trump in 2015 -- was no more than a private endeavor to build US-Russian friendship.