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Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was exchanged last week for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, gave an interview Saturday with Maria Butina on the state-run Russia Today network (RT) in which he said, “To be honest, I couldn’t even understand why we did not do it earlier.”
Butina was also held in the U.S. for a period on espionage charges related to the 2016 presidential campaign and was then elected to the Russian parliament upon her release.
According to Bout, Russians living in Ukraine wanted Russia to invade the country as far back as 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea illegally.
Bout went on to discuss demonstrations in Ukraine in 2014, saying, “Why in 2014, you know, there were demonstrations in Kharkiv, people were carrying enormous tricolors and shouting, ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,’ in Donbas and Odesa, as well, you know!” Bout then added, “Yes, clearly the conditions were not right, and we were not ready, but I would have supported it wholeheartedly.”
Bout, who was a Soviet air force pilot before becoming an infamous arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death,” said in the interview that he would volunteer to join the invasion if he had the “opportunity and necessary skills.” At 55, he would be one of the younger forces sent by Putin into Ukraine.
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While Bout bloviated about joining the Ukraine invasion and assisting with the war, his sights appear to be set more on a political position than on joining Putin’s forces. Amid his multiple appearances on Russian media, Bout joined the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) on Monday. The LDPR is an ultranationalist party that fully backs the Kremlin.
LDPR chair Leonid Slutsky touted Bout’s joining of the party, saying, “I am sure that Viktor Bout, a strong-minded and courageous man, will take a worthy place. Welcome to our ranks!” According to Slutsky, Bout will soon by attending party parliamentary meetings. An LDPR official said that Bout will be joining the party on a tour across Russia, where he will be paraded as an expert in “freedom, peace, and love for Russia.” Bout will also be hailed as someone who “survived incredible pressure in an American prison and did not break.”
Meanwhile, in the U.S., concerns are rising that Bout will not only return to dealing arms but that he will also be more dangerous due to an increased network of associates that he met in U.S. prison and also his relationship with the Kremlin. Former DEA supervisor Derek Maltz, said of Bout, “The Merchant of Death is back in action, with more hatred against America and with greater motivation to fuel conflicts and support Russia in its outrageous and disastrous war with Ukraine.”
Many Americans have expressed discontent at the exchange of such a dangerous Russian for an American basketball player. Questions are also mounting about why former U.S. marine, Paul Whelan, was not included in the prisoner exchange.
- “This War Is About Extinguishing Ukraine’s Right To Exist As A State” Biden Tells UN
- Victor Bout – “Merchant Of Death” – Exchange For Griner And Whelan Nearer