"Dealer of Death" in the Duma?: Bout joins ultra-nationalist party

According to his own statements, Viktor Bout is a proud Russian.

"Dealer of Death" in the Duma?: Bout joins ultra-nationalist party

According to his own statements, Viktor Bout is a proud Russian. So it's no surprise that after his release by the US, the former arms dealer in Russia joined an ultra-nationalist party openly promoting invasions. However, the 55-year-old does not want to run for the time being.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout may aspire to a career in politics after being freed by the US. The 55-year-old, also known as the "dealer" has joined the Kremlin-affiliated Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Despite its name, the party is considered neither liberal nor democratic, but has represented positions ranging from the ultra-nationalistic to the extreme right since it was founded in 1991. For example, it advocates attacking and conquering the former member states of the Soviet Union.

Bout received his membership card from party leader Leonid Slutsky. "I would like to thank Viktor for his decision and warmly welcome him to the best party in today's Russia," said the prominent Russian foreign politician in his welcome speech, according to the Russian state news agency TASS. "Welcome to the club."

The LDPR was founded in 1991 by communist and anti-Semite Vladimir Zhirinovsky. According to observers, she belongs to the so-called Russian system opposition. These parties sit in the Russian parliament but work with the Kremlin and are usually loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Thanks to his party membership, Bout is theoretically also eligible for a seat in the Russian Duma. The lower house of the Russian parliament has a total of 450 seats. In the last parliamentary elections in September 2021, the LDPR received 40 seats. According to his own statements, the former arms dealer still has no ambitions to run for the Duma or any other political office. "Not at the moment," was his answer to a question from Russian journalists.

According to party leader Slutsky, however, Bout will soon be invited to a meeting of the Duma's foreign affairs committee and to a faction meeting of the LDPR. Slutski also heads the foreign policy committee.

The United States released Bout last Friday in exchange for American basketball player Brittney Griner. The notorious arms dealer is also known internationally as the "dealer of death" and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in New York in 2011. After his release, he voiced his support for the Russian attack on Ukraine. "If I had the opportunity and the necessary skills, I would go (to the front) as a volunteer," the 55-year-old told Russian state broadcaster RT on Sunday. He "can't understand" why Moscow's massive offensive in the neighboring country didn't take place in 2014. "I know we will win," he added.

As the conversation continued, Bout also stated that he was "proud to be Russian." During his time in prison in the United States, he "always" had a portrait of Putin in his cell, the former arms dealer said appreciatively of the Russian president. However, there seems to have been no talks between the two famous Russians: "Not that I know of," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov when asked.