For those with an extremely keen interest in US politics, the name Tara Reade may ring a faint bell.
Back in 2019, she was one of eight women who went public with claims that Joe Biden, then a potential candidate for the White House, had behaved towards them in a way they found uncomfortable.
Reade maintained that in 1993 when she was working in his senate office, Biden had run his fingers along her neck and hair.
Then, in March 2020, she said in a podcast interview that the incident with Biden had actually been far more serious. She contended that when asked to deliver a gym bag to him in the senate complex he had pinned her against a wall and sexually assaulted her.
When the initial claims were made by the eight women, Biden had acknowledged he was a tactile politician but promised to be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space in the future.
He had “always tried to make a human connection”, he said.
“I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say: ‘You can do this’.
“Social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset and I get it. I get it.”
However, when the more serious accusation was made by Reade, Biden completely rejected her claims
In an interview with broadcaster MSNBC he said: “It is not true. I am saying unequivocally it never, never happened and it didn’t. It never happened.”
Biden’s campaign maintained he had had “dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women”.
Subsequent investigations carried out by US media found that others who worked in Biden’s senate office did not recall any talk about such an incident or about any similar behaviour towards women.
However, two of Reade’s friends told the New York Times she had told them about it.
Reade said she had not said anything about the alleged sexual assault in her first statement in 2019 as she was afraid.
She said that after her initial claims, she had faced a wave of criticism and death threats, as well as accusations that she was a Russian agent based on some social media posts that were seen as supportive of Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin.
It would not be the last time Russia appeared in this story.
Perhaps inevitably, Biden’s political opponents sought to take advantage of Reade’s claims. Groups supporting Republican candidates hit out at opponents in their constituencies for not commenting on Reade’s accusations while fully backing the woman who had made allegations against Brett Kavanaugh when he was nominated by Donald Trump to serve on the US Supreme Court.
But within a few weeks, the Reade story seemed to fade away.
In the summer of 2020, it was reported that a high-profile lawyer who had been involved in several cases in the “Me Too” era had dropped her as a client and questions were raised about her academic qualifications.
But in March this year, two right-wing Republicans in the House of Representatives, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, suggested she could give testimony to Congress. Republicans in the House have made investigations into the Biden family one of their priorities.
Then suddenly this week Reade turned up in Moscow. She said she felt safe there and wanted to stay and apply for citizenship. Media reports maintained she had “defected” although she said she also wanted to retain her American citizenship.
To add to the intrigue, Reade was accompanied by Maria Butina, a woman who might also be familiar to keen observers of US politics.
Butina, a gun rights activist, was sentenced to 18 months in jail in the US in 2019 and later deported to Russia after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent.
She admitted that she and a Russian official had worked to leverage contacts in the National Rifle Association to pursue back channels to American conservatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.
On Thursday, senior White House official John Kirby said any allegation that Reade’s life was at risk from the US government was “absolutely false”.
“It should come as no surprise to anybody that Mr Putin would show an interest in making it hard for President Biden to win election and to try to interfere in his ability to govern as president of the United States.,” Kirby said. “But whether this particular move by this particular individual is some sort of Russian information op or propaganda campaign, I just don’t know.”