Victor Bout was released last week from a 25-year prison sentence in the United States for basketball star Brittney Griner.
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was released last week from US custody in a prisoner exchange deal with US basketball star Brittney Grenier, has joined the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, according to the pro-Kremlin party leader.
On Telegram on Monday, LDP leader Leonid Slutsky said the “LDP party ticket” had been “personally delivered” to Bot.
“I am sure that Viktor Bout – a strong-willed and courageous person – will take a worthy place in it. Welcome to our ranks!”, he wrote in a post that included a photo of the two men.
Founded in 1991, the Liberal Democratic Party espouses a hardline, ultra-nationalist ideology that calls for Russia to re-occupy the countries of the former Soviet Union.
She has been one of the staunchest supporters of the invasion of Ukraine, and has often called for a harsher approach on Moscow’s part.
In recent years, the party has assumed a minor role in the Russian political system, but has provided token opposition to the ruling United Russia bloc while remaining aligned with the Kremlin on most issues.
Bot returned to Russia on December 8 after being released from a 25-year prison sentence for Grainer, who was arrested in mid-February after Moscow airport officials found cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Greiner, who the US State Department said was “unjustly detained,” was sentenced to nine years in prison in August.
Bout was arrested by US authorities in Thailand in 2008, where prosecutors charged that his large-scale arms trafficking to hotspots around the world amounted to material support for “terrorism”. The Kremlin confirmed that the arrest was politically motivated.
Dubbed the “dealer of death,” Bout has also been implicated in violating or contributing to the violation of the UN arms embargo in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The prisoner exchange came during the ninth month of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, a conflict that has damaged already strained relations between Washington and Moscow and complicated release negotiations.
In Russia, Bout’s release was seen as a victory for Moscow.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden’s administration has faced criticism for agreeing to the exchange, with critics pointing to the discrepancy in the severity of the charges against Bout and Greiner.
Biden’s critics were particularly upset that US officials were unable to secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine serving a 16-year prison sentence for alleged espionage in Russia, in the deal.
The LDP has a history of recruiting controversial figures into Russian politics, with its founder and longtime leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky earning a reputation as a political showman for his stunts and antics before his death in April.
In 2007 Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB agent wanted in Britain for the previous year’s killing of Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, was elected to Parliament for the Liberal Democratic Party.
In his first interview since his release, Bout told state-run Russia Today that the West had sought to “destroy and divide Russia” in the years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
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