Russian arms dealer Bout, who has been replaced by US basketball player Griner, says he would like to volunteer in the war against Ukraine - if he had the "necessary skills". In his eyes, Russia's attack was overdue. He's coming across the West.
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who returned home after a prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington, has voiced his support for Russia's aggressive war in Ukraine. "If I had the opportunity and the necessary skills, I would go (to the front) as a volunteer," the 55-year-old said in a stream on Russian state broadcaster RT. 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.
After his return to Russia, he enjoys the snow and "the air of freedom," explained Bout. The interview with him was conducted by Maria Butina, who herself had served a short sentence in the US for working illegally as a foreign agent for Russia.
Bout was traded for American basketball player Brittney Griner on Thursday despite strained relations between Moscow and Washington. While Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for a drug offense in Russia a few months ago, Bout has already served 14 years in prison. Bout said he "always" had a portrait of Putin in his cell while he was in prison in the United States.
The Russian, known as the "Dealer of Death," was sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison in the United States for conspiracy to murder and arms trafficking. Moscow had repeatedly tried to get Bout released, who is said to have links to the Russian secret service.
In the RT interview, Bout denied press reports from the USA that he had sold weapons to the radical Islamic Taliban ruling in Afghanistan. "The Taliban had put a bounty on my head, so how can you say I was collaborating with them? That doesn't make sense," Bout said. He accused the West of promoting a "suicide of civilization" with "drugs and LGBTQ".
According to a UN report, Bout was born in 1967 in Dushanbe, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. He studied at the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow, after which he enlisted in the Air Force. He is accused of acquiring numerous weapons at low prices from military bases in former Soviet republics during the chaotic period after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and reselling them in various conflict zones, particularly in Africa. Nothing is known about Bout's possible connections to the Russian secret services.