Reports say the US has offered to Russia the release of convicted arms dealer Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
The US government has Reportedly provided to free Viktor Bout, a imprisoned Russian arms dealer, in exchange for the release of basketball star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who are being held by Russian authorities. hold.
Here’s what to know about Bout, who was once dubbed the “Merchant of Death” and is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
Who is Viktor Bout?
- Bout is said to have been born in Dushanbe, Tajikstan, in the Soviet Union, in 1967. He is a former Soviet military interpreter who started his career in air transport in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union. fall.
- According to reports, his father was an auto mechanic, and his mother was an accountant; he also has an older brother.
- “Viktor was an adventurous boy… copied banned pop songs for a little extra pocket money, and taught himself Esperanto in the belief that it would be useful later in life,” the weekly magazine Der Spiegel of Germany. report in 2010.
- He joined the Communist Youth League while studying at the Military Foreign Language Institute in Moscow.
- During his time in the army, he was sent to Mozambique and Angola to work as a translator.
- After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bout purchased a fleet of second-hand military cargo planes, according to a Time report and started an air freight business.
- He is the subject of the book, Merchant of Death, written by investigative reporters Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, and is also said to have been the inspiration for the character played by Nicolas Cage in Lord of War, a series Hollywood-produced film released in 2005.
From Africa to Afghanistan to Iraq
- According to the report, there were times when Bout’s business legally provided services to the governments of France, the United Nations and the United States.
- However, according to Amnesty International, Mr implicated too violate or contribute to violations of the United Nations arms embargo in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Bout also admitted to having been to Afghanistan in the 1990s but denied allegations that he had supplied the Taliban.
- The documents show that Bout’s company was one of the companies contracted by the US government to transport supplies into Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
- In 2003, Peter Hain, former British Foreign Secretary, said: “Bout is the leading merchant of death, the main conduit for aircraft and arms supply routes… from Eastern Europe, mainly from Eastern Europe. from Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine to Liberia and Angola. “
What led to his arrest?
- US authorities have been trying to prosecute Bout since the early 2000s – even as it contracted his company to provide logistical support for the invasion of Iraq.
- However, US authorities held back due to the lack of any laws they could charge him under.
- In 2008, agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, posing as buyers for Colombian FARC rebels, were able to get an introduction to Bout and his company.
- Shortly after they discussed possible arms shipments with him, he was arrested by Thai authorities before being extradited to the US.
- Bout has only been charged in connection with the suspected arms trade, but US authorities say he has been involved in the arms trade since the 1990s.
- He was sentenced 25 years in prison and was convicted of terrorism charges in 2012.
- He always says that he runs legitimate businesses and is a logistics provider.
- In sentencing, District Judge Shira Scheindlin said the minimum sentence was appropriate because there was no evidence that Bout would have committed the crime for which he was convicted if it were not for the electrocution activity.
- In an interview with CNN in 2002, he said: “I’m not afraid. I don’t have anything in my life for what I have to fear. And this whole story to me is like a witch hunt.”
- The Russian Foreign Ministry denied Bout’s conviction, saying the charges were “a political order”. The Kremlin has for years demanded his release.
What do we know about the reported prisoner swap?
- The potential deal is the latest development in an ongoing US effort to free Griner and Whelan, who the US accuses of being wrongfully detained by Russia.
- Olympic gold medalist Griner arrested for possession of cannabis oil while ex-Marine Whelan was jailed for espionage.
- “We made an important proposal a few weeks ago to facilitate their release,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.