Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout joins pro-Kremlin LDPR party after returning home in US prisoner swap deal for WNBA star Brittney Griner | World news

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was recently freed in a prisoner swap for US basketball star Brittney Griner, has joined a pro-Kremlin far-right political party.

The 55-year-old, dubbed the ‘Merchant of Death’, has joined the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) – which has consistently supported Vladimir of Putin invasion of Ukraine.

The party has been largely supportive of the Kremlin, despite providing token opposition to the ruling United Russia bloc.

Experts had suggested that Bout could launch a career in politics upon his return Russia.

He was released Thursday in a prisoner exchange after spending 14 years in a US prison for illegal arms trafficking.

Russia, in the past, tended to give public office to people wanted by the West and it had been suggested that he could run for a seat in the Russian parliament.

Bout told Russian media on Monday that he has no immediate plans to participate in “any elections”.

    Viktor Bout, who was swapped with WNBA star Brittney Griner last week and who has joined the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, addresses the party convention in Moscow, Russia PIC:AP
The bout was traded for WNBA star Brittney Griner last week. photo: AP

Meanwhile, his decision to enter politics was supported by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a powerful Russian businessman and close ally of Putin.

In a statement released by his catering company, Concord, he said: “Viktor Bout is not a person, he is an example of steadfastness.

“Bout will certainly do well at the head of any existing party and any movement.”

The video posted today on Telegram shows Bout joining LDPR leader Leonid Slutsky on stage to announce his party membership.

In the footage, Slutsky tells the crowd: “I want to thank Viktor Anatolievich (Bout) for the decision he has made and welcome him to the ranks of the best political party in Russia today.”

Despite its name, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) has espoused a hardline and ultra-nationalist ideology since its founding in 1991.

    Mikhail Degtyaryov, the governor of the Khabarovsk region, Viktor Bout, who last week was swapped with WNBA star Brittney Griner and joined the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Leonid Slutsky, head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee Russian lower house
Bout (center), pictured here with Mikhail Degtyaryov, the governor of the Khabarovsk region, Viktor Bout, and Leonid Slutsky

One of his main demands is for Russia to reconquer the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Its founder and longtime leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who died in April, had earned a reputation as a political showman for his outrageous stunts and eccentric behavior.

The party has a history of recruiting controversial personalities in Russian politics, including Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB agent wanted in Britain for the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

He was elected to parliament for the LDPR in 2007.

Read more
Brittney Griner Freed in Prisoner Exchange with Russian Arms Dealer ‘Death Merchant’.
Brittney Griner Returns to US After Prisoner Exchange With Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

For nearly two decades, Bout has been one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weapons to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate American operation, after which he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the Russian state has wanted to bring him back.

Bout was released by the United States on December 8 in a prisoner exchange for WNBA star Griner, who was arrested in February when customs officers said they found vape containers containing cannabis oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.

In this still from video provided by Russia's Federal Security Service, WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner sits on the plane as she flies to Abu Dhabi to be swapped with Russian citizen Viktor Bout, Russia, Friday 12 December.  9, 2022. (Federal Security Service of Russia via AP)
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner sits on plane as she flies to Abu Dhabi

She was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Bout’s release was seen as a major public relations victory for the Kremlin, while US President Joe Biden welcomed Ms. Griner’s return, saying she represented “the best of America”.

He also criticized Russia, saying Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and had been through a “terrible ordeal”.


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