The FBI is investigating the arrest of a US intelligence operative who allegedly had a secret relationship with the Kremlin-backed Russian lawyer Natalia Vescelnitsky.
The woman, Natalia Vaselchenko, was arrested on Saturday at her home in Washington DC by the FBI in connection with the probe.
She has not yet been charged with any crime.US intelligence officials are looking into the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, including whether any US persons were involved in the hacking of Democratic Party emails and how that effort may have been financed.
Vaselchenko’s arrest is a significant development in the probe, as she was a key figure in the investigation into the hacking.
Russian state media reports in the past week have suggested Veselnitysk’s involvement in the alleged campaign against Hillary Clinton during the US election was financed by a group linked to the Russian government.
The arrest of Veselnitzkaya is also significant as she is believed to have close ties to the Kremlin, a fact that led to the investigation being initiated.
The FBI said the Russian operative was a former member of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), a Russian intelligence agency, who had a longstanding relationship with Veselnizk, the agency said in a statement.
The FSB said she was charged with “unauthorised communication with a US person”.
The US government has long sought to find out whether Russian operatives helped or assisted Trump’s election campaign.
During the 2016 election, the US intelligence community concluded Russia intervened in the election to help Trump defeat Clinton.
FBI Director James Comey has said the investigation is still ongoing, and the agency is working to identify those who were involved.