Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was recently freed in a prisoner swap with American basketball star Brittney Griner, has joined a far-right pro-Kremlin party.
The 55-year-old, nicknamed the “merchant of death”, joined the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), which has long supported Vladimir Putin’s invasion or Ukraine.
The party has largely backed the Kremlin, despite symbolically opposing the ruling United Russia bloc.
Experts have suggested that Bout can enter politics after returning home. Russia.
He was released on a prisoner exchange on Thursday after serving 14 years in a US prison for illegal arms dealing.
In the past, Russia has tended to offer public office to whomever the West wanted, and it has been suggested that he could fight for a seat in Russia’s parliament.
Bout told Russian media on Monday that he had no immediate plans to take part in “any elections”.
At the same time, his decision to enter politics was supported by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a powerful Russian businessman and one of Putin’s close allies.
In a statement released by his catering company, Concord, he said: “Victor Bout is not alone, he is a steadfast example.
“Bout would certainly be good at leading any existing party and any movement.”
A video posted on Telegram today showed Bout announcing his party affiliation on stage alongside LDPR leader Leonid Slutsky.
In the video, Slutsky told the crowd: “I would like to thank Viktor Anatolyevich (Bout) for his decision and welcome him to the ranks of the best political parties in Russia today.”
Since its founding in 1991, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), despite its different name, has pursued a hardline ultra-nationalist ideology.
One of its main demands is for Russia to reconquer the former Soviet states.
Its founder and longtime leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who had earned a reputation as a political showman for his outrageous stunts and erratic behavior, died in April.
The party has a history of recruiting controversial figures into Russian politics, including Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB agent wanted in Britain for the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.
He was elected as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2007.
Brittney Griner to swap prisoners with Russian ‘death merchant’ arms dealer on Friday
Brittney Griner returns to US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘death merchant’ Viktor Bout
For nearly two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weapons to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia and South America.
The Russian government has been keen to bring him back since he was caught in an elaborate US sting and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Bout was released by the United States on Dec. 8 in a prisoner swap with WNBA star Greener, who was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing marijuana oil in luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
She was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Bout’s release was seen as a major PR victory for the Kremlin, while US President Joe Biden welcomed Ms Griner’s return, saying she represented “the best of America”.
He also criticized Russia, saying Ms Griner had been held in “intolerable conditions” and had endured “terrible ordeal”.