OAN Newsroom Correspondent Geri Berry
UPDATED 2:06 PM PT – Monday, December 12, 2022
Viktor Bout, an arms dealer, has joined the pro-Kremlin far-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) following the diplomatic breakthrough of his release from U.S. custody.
On Monday, Bout had appeared alongside the Kremlin loyalist Leonid Slutsky, LDPR’s leader, during his acceptance as a member of the party.
“I want to thank Viktor Anatolievich [Bout] for the decision he has made and welcome him into the ranks of the best political party in today’s Russia,” Slutsky said.
Last week, the notorious arms dealer, known as the “Merchant of Death,” was exchanged for WNBA star Brittney Griner. Griner was sentenced to nine years on smuggling charges by Russian customs officials after cartridges containing medically-prescribed hash oil were found in her luggage.
Many experts claim that Bout’s release holds a symbolic value to the Russian leader and his allies. Since his return, he has given several high-profile interviews to the media about his admiration for his country and its government.
Since its inception in 1991 by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the LDPR has promoted an ultranationalist and xenophobic ideology, urging Russia to overtake the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Bout gained notoriety in 2012 after he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for selling arms to Colombian warlords for the purpose of killing Americans. According to Associated Press, his other clientele had included Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides in the civil war in Angola.
Bout’s loyalty to his motherland goes as far as claiming that he kept a picture of the Russian leader in his US prison cell.
“I am proud that I am a Russian person, and our president is Putin,” Bout told Maria Butina, a fellow Russian who was incarcerated but later deported for being an unregistered agent of Russia.
Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as well as the founder and head of R. Politik made a statement.
“Putin will reassure him that if he would like to continue serving the state, the motherland, he will have all the other opportunities for that,” Stanovaya said.