MOSCOW ( Associated Press) – Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was traded Thursday for American basketball player Brittney Griner, is known abroad as the “Merchant of Death” for stoking some of the world’s worst conflicts. Gave. ,
In Russia, however, he is regarded as a ruthless businessman who was wrongfully imprisoned after an overly aggressive US covert operation.
The 2005 film “Lord of War”, starring Nicolas Cage, was based on Bout, a former Soviet Air Force officer who allegedly gained fame for supplying arms to civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa . His clients were said to include former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and both sides in the Angolan Civil War.
On Thursday, the United States and Russia announced that Griner had been traded for the bout and was going home.
For years, Russia had pushed for Bout’s release, and as speculation grew about such a deal, the upper house of parliament opened an exhibition of paintings made in prison, ranging from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to Cat Even the children were involved.
The display of his craft underlined the complexities of the bout. Though part of a bloody business, the 55-year-old, a vegetarian, was a fan of classical music and is said to speak six languages.
Even the former federal judge who convicted him in 2011 thought his 11 years behind bars was a fitting punishment.
“In this case he has served enough time for what he did,” Sheera A. Sheindlin told The Associated Press in July as the chances of his release grew.
Griner, who was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, was sentenced in August to nine years in prison after vape tanks containing cannabis oil were found in his luggage. Washington protested his sentence as disproportionate, and some observers suggested that trading an arms dealer for a man in prison for a small amount of drugs would be a bad deal.
Bout was indicted on terrorism charges in 2011. Prosecutors said Bout was about to sell $20 million worth of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles to shoot down American helicopters. When he made such a claim during his 2012 sentencing, Bout shouted, “That’s a lie!”
Bout categorically states his innocence, describing himself as a legitimate businessman who does not sell weapons.