Stashed away in a federal penitentiary deep in the bowels of Illinois sits a notorious Russian arms dealer named Viktor Bout, a man the Biden administration is rumored to be eyeing as a bargaining chip to procure the release of two American prisoners.
Bout has gone by many names over the years, such as the “Merchant of Death” and “Sanctions Buster” — titles he earned for his alleged ruthless and savvy arms dealing from Eastern Europe into Africa and the Middle East following the collapse of the Soviet Union. His black market exploits inspired the Nicolas Cage flick Lord of War and ultimately led to his arrest in 2008 for conspiring to kill Americans.
“All that remains is for the U.S. government to have the courage to admit the obvious — get what we can for Viktor Bout,” Bout’s lawyer Steve Zissou said, per the Washington Post. “The alternative should be obvious — no Americans will be exchanged unless Viktor Bout is sent home along with them.”
The Kremlin has long called for Bout’s release since he was first detained by authorities in Thailand back in 2008 upon the request of the United States. And now, there are two U.S. nationals being held in Russia, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, whom the Biden administration has been keen to set free.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. offered a “significant proposal” for their release — a proposition CNN reported to be Bout’s release in a prisoner swap, as had long been rumored. (Read more from “Who Is the ‘Merchant of Death’ Arms Dealer Biden Offered Russia in Prisoner Swap?” HERE)
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